returns in Incredibles 2. How much do we love them? Let us count the ways.
The most incredible family of superheroes is back. The Parrs, the lovable, fearless family of five we first met in 2004 in The Incredibles, will return for another animated adventure when Disney-Pixar’s Incredibles 2 arrives in theaters June 15. And although 14 years have passed, it’s like the clock has barely ticked at all: The new movie picks up seconds after the first one ended, with the same cast of characters. Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) hurtles back into superhero work, while her husband, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), remains behind as a stay-at-home dad with the couple’s three kids, teenage Violet (Sarah Vowell), adolescent Dash (newcomer Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack.
But a villain, the subterranean Underminer ( John Ratzenberger), emerges to wreak havoc on the city. To stop him, the whole family, including dad Bob and his best bud, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), scrambles to get in on the action.
It’s all great fun, and it reminds us why we love the Incredibles.
1. THEY’RE ALL ABOUT FAMILY
The first Incredibles movie was unique among superhero flicks in that it focused on a husband, a wife and their kids—who happened to have superpowers, says Jerry Beck, a former studio executive at Nickelodeon and Disney, and the author of more than 15 books on animation history. “It was an affirmation that the family was a team, working together,” he says.
“These films major in family and minor in superheroes,” agrees Brad Bird, 60, the writer and director of both Incredibles. “The family part of this story has always been the part that interests me more, though they’re also made of all the things I loved when I was young—spy movies, superheroes, action films and comedy. So it’s this giant, nut-filled brownie—all the stuff I loved, mashed together for me.” In fact, Bird—the father of three sons: Nick, 23, Jack, 25, and Michael, 29—focused on his own family dynamics and experiences when he wrote the original Incredibles, which won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Animated Film and another for sound editing, and was nominated for Best Screenplay. It was the first film from Pixar—the studio
that had also by that time made Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Finding
Nemo and Monsters, Inc.—to win multiple Oscars, and the first one to feature an entirely “human” cast.
“It’s all taken from the family I grew up in. I can relate to every member of the family. Hopefully you can relate. I was the annoying little brother to my three older sisters— and I watched my sons get through their insecure teenage phases,” Bird says.
THEY’RE 2. ASPIRATIONAL
Ultimately, getting audiences to relate to characters is what distinguishes a so-so animated film from a great one, says Beck. “The Incredibles represents who we want to be and also helps us recognize our faults and our differences—that’s what makes it particularly great.”
3. THEY’RE FUNNY
“[The first movie] was so witty,” says Elastigirl’s voice talent, Hunter, 60, who won an Oscar for her role in The Piano (1993) and is currently starring in the HBO series Here and Now. “Brad is such a great observer of behavior, both in children and adults—and in superheroes. He was able to combine this classic and modern sensibility in the movie that felt really new.” Incredibles 2, she says, will also deliver the laughs.
4. THEIR SUPERPOWERS ARE SUPERCOOL
“A dad is expected to be strong, so I gave Bob superstrength; a mom is pulled in 20 directions, so I made Helen elastic,” Bird says. “Teenagers are kind of defensive and don’t want a lot of attention, so I gave Violet invisibility and the ability to create force fields. Ten-year-olds love to be on the go, so I gave Dash the power of speed. And while babies are unknowns, JackJack has the potential to have his own powers.”
5. THEY CELEBRATE WORKING MOMS—AND DADS
The working mom pulled in a thousand directions is a decidedly modern and “now” take in Incredibles 2, which centers around Elastigirl as the lead crime fighter.
“I had the idea for this storyline—about how Bob handles not being a superhero—as I was finishing the first movie,” says Bird. “This idea of figuring out how to set up Elastigirl, versus Bob, to go on the mission. I thought it would bring things out of the characters.”
Hunter agrees that the plot twist reflects the advancement and empowerment of women over the past decade and a half that has elapsed since the first film.
“In the first movie, Elastigirl was reticent to take up the gauntlet, but in Incredibles 2, she wields that power with glee and zero guilt,” she says.
Nelson, 74, says he can relate as well to his character’s story arc, in that Bob’s prime role is to care for his three kids.
“Bob feels like he’s being sublimated and overlooked in some respects, but he also finds a new purpose and a new chance to get to know his kids in a way that he wouldn’t otherwise have had,” says Nelson, who’s appearing in the movie Book Club, which opened in theaters last month. He has three children of his own, plus eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. “I related to this because, when I came out to Los Angeles, there were times I wasn’t working and I was home with the kids, and times my wife was working. This storyline is very reminiscent of all of that.”
6. VIOLET IS EVERY TEENAGER
Daughter Violet’s situation might also look and feel familiar to a lot of families, especially ones with teenagers at home.
“Violet’s coming into her own but is still so young, and some of the conflicts she has with her mother are that her mother is protective,” says Vowell, 48, who was discovered by Bird when he heard her on a public-radio show. “But that’s what a mother does.
“While Violet was a little more ambivalent in the first film because she wasn’t sure what she was capable of, now she knows she has skills and she’s chomping at the bit to help out in superhero work. What teenager can’t identify with wanting to be older than you are?”
As it sometimes happens with real-world teens, Violet becomes her father’s No. 1 helper as he tries to step up and take care of home-life duties. “Violet is basically his deputy in caring for the two younger children,” says Vowell. “Helen is out there saving the world, and Bob and Violet are taking care of the baby, which is actually a much harder job than fighting crime. They’re both getting a bit of a taste of what Helen has gone
through the past few years, taking care of an energetic boy and a volatile baby.”
There’s also a warm and fuzzy daughter-dad subplot.
“Violet spends more time with Bob in this movie,” Vowell says. “That teenage daughter father relationship is always so fraught, but it’s funny too. Daughters make fathers into better men, and you can see that happening in this film.”
7. DASH IS STILL DASH, EVEN WITH A NEW VOICE
Huck Milner, 10, took over Dash’s voice from actor Spencer Fox, whose voice changed too much to be believable as a 6-year-old. He says recording his first movie role was a thrill.
“Brad would let me know what he wanted Dash to say and how he wanted him to sound,” says Milner. “Sometimes he came running back in with new lines he had just written. In the booth, we would joke around and sometimes Brad would say, ‘I like that! Let’s use it!’”
8. EVEN THE BABY HAS POWERS
Remember JackJack? He didn’t get much action in the first movie, but in Incredibles 2, Jack-Jack almost steals the show.
“Jack-Jack is an undiscovered country to the parents,” says Hunter. “It’s just a kick to see what that baby is capable of.”
9. BONUS: BOB ODENKIRK!
Odenkirk, 55, voices a new character named Winston Deavor, a massive superhero fan who heads a telecommunications company alongside his genius sister Evelyn (voiced by Catherine Keener). He says the idea of playing a mogul with a big personality was a departure from his usual TV and movie roles (think Breaking Bad).
“I’ve only done a few things like this, so it’s new to me,” says the star of the acclaimed AMC series Better Call Saul. “It was a real unique experience. I was thrilled how my character developed over the course of recording in the four or five sessions we did. The story changed and got richer and more intriguing and more layered in every way.”
10. IT TUGS THE HEARTSTRINGS
Nelson thinks the Incredibles franchise is a lot of fun but has rewards that extend far beyond the movie screen.
“One of my great-grandkids, his room is filled with all kinds of Pixar stuff,” says the veteran actor of movies including Poltergeist, All the Right Moves and Stir Crazy and TV’s Coach, My Name Is Earl and Parenthood. “He’s 2 and he got all the Incredibles stuff and has no idea I’m in it. It’s so cool that a whole new generation is discovering it.
“One of my granddaughters—who just won a national cheerleading competition—asked me the other day, ‘Can you call this kid? He has autism and he’s a big Incredibles fan.’ So I called him, as Mr. Incredible. He knew all the lines from the first movie. He was so excited.
“You forget about this stuff—then you remember how important it is for some of these kids. It’s really fun and neat to be a part of it. It’s very life-affirming.”
In fact, it’s incredible.
Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible), voiced by Craig T. Nelson Helen Parr (Elastigirl), voiced by Holly Hunter Violet Parr, voiced by Sarah Vowell
Dash Parr, voiced by Huck Milner