Packed with new and imaginative thrills, a serious upgrade in animation technology and the same relatable charm that gave so much heart to its predecessor, "Incredibles 2" is a fun-filled action adventure that turns out to be well worth the long wait audiences endured for it.
What's it about?
Picking up where the 2004 original "The Incredibles" film left off, "Incredibles 2" sees the super-powered Parr family -- super-strong Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), stretchy Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), teen force-field wielder Violet (Sarah Vowell), 10-year-old speedster Dash (Huck Milner) and toddler Jack-Jack -- still dealing with everyday family challenges while also trying to stay out of trouble in a world where being a superhero is illegal.
A chance to at least make their efforts to help others stay on the right side of the law presents itself when outrageously wealthy tech entrepreneurs Winston and Evelyn Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) approach them with a campaign to change public perception of superheroes.
To Bob's surprise, the Deavors ask Helen to be the face of the campaign. After some initial misgivings, Helen accepts and leaves home to resume saving the world, while Bob tries to turn his "Incredible" talents to being a stay-at-home dad.
Naturally, things don't go quite as planned. A new enemy calling himself the Screen-Slaver rises to challenge Elastigirl, while back at the homestead Bob finds himself nearly overwhelmed by domestic challenges such as teen crushes, new math, and oh, yes, Jack-Jack's newly-emerged superpowers.
Perhaps the best way to describe the leap in on-screen looks between the original "Incredibles" and this new film is to compare it to the differences between two other Disney-Pixar classics, 2003's "Finding Nemo" and 2016's "Finding Dory."
Just as in those two films, the beloved characters are easily recognizable in the sequel, but all come to life on screen with far more depth, surface texture and complexity of motion. If you really want to appreciate the differences, watch the original "Incredibles" right before the new film and then look for things like Dash's hair, Helen's hair while Elastigirl is riding her new Elasticycle at high speeds, or the patterns and sheen on the heroes' costumes.
Colors are richer, shadows and blacks are deeper, and while that does result in a color palette that's slightly less bright than the first time around, it also makes the film's unique retro visual style, all sharp angles and geometric shapes, truly pop off the screen.
When utilized to bring to life writer/director Brad Bird's signature wide-ranging, breakneck action sequences, the upgrades send the film soaring to even greater heights of lighthearted mayhem than the original did.
Humor and heart
While all that technical and animation wizardry would certainly wow under any circumstances, it would come off as hollow if "Incredibles 2" didn't retain the warmth and charm of the original, its relatable themes and huge helpings of humor.
In this regard, the star of the show without a doubt is Jack-Jack, who bounces about, talking in adorable gibberish while showing off a set of powers that leaves even the seasoned super-adults slack-jawed and awestruck. As any parent can testify, toddlers can be challenging to the most patient of parents, so just imagine one that can do all the things that Jack-Jack can do without any real control over any of it.
The film mines the comedic potential of that set-up and Mr. Incredible being pushed to his limits trying to rein Jack-Jack in to its maximum potential. While all that represents one of the film's subplots, it is arguably just as entertaining to watch as all of Helen's sleuthing and high-speed superhero derring-do.
If you have fond memories of the original "Incredibles" and/or are just a Disney-Pixar fan, then yes, "Incredibles 2" is must-see material in theaters, in a premium venue if possible.
In particular, the film's IMAX presentation makes all the visual upgrades in play, as well as the film's wonderful musical score, all really come together into a delightfully immersive experience.
If we're nitpicking, it's not as tightly scripted as the first film and there are some predictable elements. Nothing about those minor issues, however, should prove distracting from the overall fun.
Bottom line: even in a standard presentation, this is just about as good as it gets in terms of smart, family-friendly summer movie fun that's sure to leave you wondering why it took so long to get a second film done.
Starring the voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Bird, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, and Isabella Rossellini. Directed by Brad Bird
Running time: 118 minutes
Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language.