IN­CRED­I­BLES 2

The ul­ti­mate fam­ily flick ar­rives on home-ent with su­per­pow­ered ex­tras.

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One of the rea­sons be­hind the en­dur­ing suc­cess of The Simp­sons is that its char­ac­ters never age. For nearly three decades, Bart has been 10, Lisa eight and Mag­gie a tod­dler. So why worry when Brad Bird (a Simp­sons vet­eran him­self) de­cides to re­turn to the world of The In­cred­i­bles, 14 years af­ter their de­but? To put that gap in per­spec­tive, the re­vival of Doc­tor Who hadn’t been broad­cast back in 2004, and we’re now on the fifth new Doc­tor. Closer to home, Pixar has de­liv­ered Wall·E, Up, In­side Out, Coco, three Cars movies and sev­eral other fol­low-ups to its beloved early hits.

But hey, just sec­onds into In­cred­i­bles 2, it feels like we’ve been with the Parr fam­ily all along. True, the film doesn’t scale the heights of the orig­i­nal, which had an emo­tional res­o­nance that’s largely lack­ing here. But it comes a lot closer to sus­tain­ing its pre­de­ces­sor’s qual­ity than, say, Find­ing Dory or Mon­sters Univer­sity.

Pick­ing up im­me­di­ately where the first film left off, the se­quel sees the Parrs tackle the Un­der­miner (John Ratzen­berger), only to re­alise that one

loose thread was still hang­ing from the first film’s per­fect nar­ra­tive. Namely that, tech­ni­cally, su­per­heroes are still il­le­gal. Cue a quick re­turn to medi­ocrity, now with the added in­sult of be­ing housed in a mo­tel, un­til a mys­te­ri­ous re­quest for the fam­ily’s ser­vices ar­rives from tele­coms guru Win­ston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sis­ter Eve­lyn (Cather­ine Keener).

Bird pulls off a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act here. On the one hand, this re­ally could have been made a decade ago, not­with­stand­ing that Bird’s ex­pe­ri­ences in live ac­tion (es­pe­cially Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble – Ghost Pro­to­col) have clearly helped re­fine his gift for ac­tion set-pieces.

He­len breaks loose

On the other hand, In­cred­i­bles 2 is in­fused with a gen­uine feel for the po­lit­i­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties of 2018. It swirls with top­i­cal un­der­cur­rents. Where the first film saw Mr. In­cred­i­ble (Craig T. Nel­son) head­hunted for a mis­sion, this time it’s his wife who’s in de­mand, plus no­tice­ably hired un­der her pre-mar­riage nom de plume Elasti­girl. Sud­denly, He­len (Holly Hunter) wears the trousers – well, thigh-length boots and tights – and Bob is left to play out-of-his-depth house-hus­band to the three chil­dren.

This is smart sto­ry­telling, not only in giv­ing Hunter the lion’s share of the di­a­logue (a boon in it­self given the rich­ness of her un­mis­tak­able drawl), but also in the way it toys with the themes of the orig­i­nal. Bird took some flak for the Ayn Ran­dian-es­que sub­text that su­per­heroes should flaunt their su­pe­ri­or­ity. Here, that’s sub­verted,

‘It’s bold stuff, but de­canted Into breezy en­ter­taIn­ment’

with the al­pha male get­ting his mid-life cri­sis while He­len kicks ass.

Think this is co­in­ci­den­tal? Cer­tainly not, when the vil­lain of this movie – the Screenslaver (Bill Wise) – is con­spic­u­ously ad­dress­ing the haves and have-nots of the mod­ern world. When we try to set up the se­lect few as wor­thy of slav­ish de­vo­tion, the se­quel sug­gests, it in­stils an in-built com­pla­cency and in­tel­lec­tual lethargy in ev­ery­body else.

nappy eVenT

It’s a theme that re­sounds far more now – af­ter a decade of MCU supremacy – than it would have done if the se­quel had been made pre-Iron Man. It also has pointed things to say about so­cial me­dia, fake news and the cult of per­son­al­ity that sur­rounds a cer­tain pres­i­dent.

It’s bold stuff, but de­canted into breezy en­ter­tain­ment. Bird came a crop­per in 2015’s

To­mor­row­land by try­ing to be overly se­ri­ous and ser­mon­is­ing, but there was a good hour in the mid­dle that fizzed and ric­o­cheted with gags, ac­tion and ex­cite­ment. Here, he’s al­lowed these el­e­ments to over­rule the life lessons.

If some of the first In­cred­i­bles’ peril and pathos are in shorter sup­ply, there are daz­zling dis­plays of tech­ni­cal bravura. Bird’s best set-piece is a grip­ping bike-ver­sus-train chase; run­ner-up goes to a spooky search of a gloomily lit apart­ment that sud­denly ex­plodes into a vivid, eye-scorch­ing fight. There are throw­away gags, both vis­ual (a nappy change on a boat) and ver­bal (a very fa­mil­iar tale about how hard it is to buy the right bat­ter­ies). There’s also a de­lec­ta­ble score by Michael Gi­acchino which, even by the com­poser’s stan­dards, is a blast. And, cours­ing through just about ev­ery­thing, is Pixar’s fun­ni­est, most en­er­gised and po­lit­i­cally on-point sub­plot in years, as the Parr fam­ily grad­u­ally dis­cov­ers the full ex­tent of Jack-Jack’s pow­ers.

Only hinted at in The In­cred­i­bles

(and con­firmed in 2005’s spin-off short Jack-Jack At­tack), here we get the full Looney Tunes sym­phony of what the youngest Parr is ca­pa­ble of. The va­ri­ety keeps the ac­tion un­pre­dictable and the laughs free-flow­ing, es­pe­cially in Jack-Jack’s stand-off against a rac­coon, a con­tender for the year’s best fight scene. More than that, the mes­sage – that we all have po­ten­tial, and should be al­lowed to ex­press it – is a fit­tingly woke re­fine­ment of ev­ery­thing the first film at­tempted to say.

Ex­tras in­clude the charm­ing short Bao and a new mini-movie, Aun­tie Edna, which gives us more time with Edna Mode than the main film’s brief but on-point cameo al­lows. Si­mon Kin­n­ear

The su­per-fam­ily are back, only this time it’s very much mum He­len, aka Elasti­girl, tak­ing the lead.

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