Directed by Brad Bird
But first, let's talk about Bao.
Bao is the Pixar short that plays before Incredibles 2. And it is honestly and truly awesome. Directed by Domee Shi, it is inspired by her youth growing up in Toronto and by her overprotective mother and the other mothers and grandmothers in Chinatown. Bao is eight minutes of awesome sauce, it is near perfection. It is moving and heartbreaking and surprising and funny and, again, is near perfection. It begins with a mother making dumplings and stuff happens and it's charming and beautiful and is almost everything you could ask for from entertainment and art. What Domee Shi and her team have created is among the very best of Pixar. Damn, I love Bao. I may actually judge people that dislike Bao.
What I'm getting at here, in a most longwinded and meandering way, is Bao is that opening act that makes the headliner work even harder to make the audience love them? The one that makes the headliner sweat as they watch from the wings seeing the audience pour love and affection on the unknown, on the upstart, love and affection that should have been theirs. And so the question is, is Incredibles 2 the headliner that everyone remembers or is it next year's trivia question, "What film did Bao play before in theatres?"
The good news is Incredibles 2 is close to everything fans of The Incredibles have been waiting fourteen years for. Visually it may not meet the bar that was set by Coco, but, really, it is among Pixar's most visually stunning films. Not many animated films make anyone remark on the cinematography, but here we are talking about Incredibles 2 and I'm going to bring up the cinematography. I have no clue how an animated film made me think of Roger Deakins and Janusz Kaminski, but Incredibles 2 has this naturalist lighting, a light that has texture. There is a scene in this movie where Elastigirl is chasing a runaway commuter train from street level, weaving in and out of traffic, and the way the light falls between the tracks above her is perfection and adds to the tension of the chase. That entire sequence, Elastigirl on her motorcycle, slipping through traffic, her body stretching in impossible ways, is on par with any action scene in any superhero genre film. And it's not the only scene that challenges what is happening in the other theatres at the cineplex. Most of the action scenes in Incredibles 2 are on par with anything coming out of Marvel Studios. Hell, some of them surpass the MCU.
The voice work is top notch, of course. This is a Pixar film, of course the voice work is top notch. Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sarah Vowell return. Huck Milner steps in as Dash, Spencer Fox having aged out for the role. Jonathan Banks steps in for the late Bud Luckey as Rick Dicker. Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, and Isabella Rosselini help create new characters, enriching the animation with fully formed personalities and verbal quirks.
Incredibles 2 picks up where the first one left off. Literally. You could take out the closing credits from the first one and have a near four hour film. From there, stuff happens. Helen/Elastigirl goes to work for a billionaire who wants to end the superhero ban. Bob/Mr. Incredible stays at home with the kids, dealing with homework, teenage angst, and a baby who is a challenge. Other things happen and it's all great fun and spectacle.
It's hard to nit pick something this much fun, but here goes. Really, there's only a couple of weak points in Incredibles 2. At times the story feels like a bit of a retread of the first movie, but then it occasionally branches off into exciting new places. It doesn't have that big heart wrenching, multi-tissue moment that most Pixar films have. But it's a superhero film and things go boom and what else do you want? I was afraid the Bob-stays-at-home-with-the-kids plot was going to go full Mr. Mom, but Brad Bird and his team take a left when the audience feels them falling down that rabbit hole and the movie is better for it. The film is a little dialogue heavy at times, those moments might be a tough for the younger audience. And some of the dialogue is, well, clunky. Not all of it, just some of it. But this is a Brad Bird film. You're going to run into some clunky dialogue. It'll be forgiven before the next set piece is over.
And there's the centre that holds this meandering and longwinded thing I'm writing together. This is a Brad Bird film. This is the man behind Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, the best Mission Impossible film. His only failure, Tomorrowland, is still a technical achievement. A complete mess of a movie, but technically impressive. Anyway, Brad Bird is among the greatest film makers working, he is in the toppermost of the uppermost. So, not only is Incredibles 2 a sequel to a much beloved movie that many have great affection for, it is a new Brad Bird film. Does it stand with the rest of his work? I think so. It may not reach the upper stratosphere like some other Pixar films, but damn, it is great fun. It really is.
The best part of seeing Incredibles 2 with an audience is seeing the parents who have brought their children. It's been fourteen years since The Incredibles, some of these parents were children when they saw it in the theatre, accompanied by their own parents. This made me smile.