REVIEW| ‘Incredibles 2’ plays like an adult sitcom

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And we are back in Metroville. Watching the Parrs family in the middle of an epic urban battle that began 14 years ago. As if nothing had happened. Bob’s Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen’s Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and their kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and Baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) are not a day old in the sequel to The Incredibles. They are frozen in time, but still timelessly charming.

The last time we saw the superhero family was in 2004, two years before the public was introduced to Facebook. The kids who saw it are now bringing their kids to see the sequel. That’s how long it has been — a decade-and-a-half pause. But writer-director Brad Bird is still on top of his game.

So we find the Parrs Family in their red, black and yellow superhero suits trying to save Metroville from the 2004 villain, Underminer, who is crushing the city. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the battle leaves Metroville deeply damaged, and so the government decides to finally shut down the superhero gig.

The Parrs Family, with no home — and income — are suddenly cramped together in a dingy motel. With superheroes, or “supers,” now illegal, what does the future hold for them?
Their salvation comes in the form of telecom company called Devtech. The tycoon owner, Winston (Bob Odenkirk), summons Bob and Helen, along with family friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), to Devtech’s headquarters in New Urbem. Winston, supported by his inventor sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), proposes a plan: bring back the public’s trust in supers. But here’s the catch— they only want Elastigirl, the least-destructive super, under their employment.

Incredibles 2 plays like a funny adult sitcom about a dysfunctional family, illustrating the joys and sorrows of parenting with a hilarious gender power play between Bob and Helen. When the family is relocated to New Urbem with a swanky new house, Bob is relegated to being a plain househusband, envious of the wife, who is out doing what they both love— crime-fighting with a lofty paycheck.

Bird’s screenplay sparkles with sharp wit, the humor the clean kind, but written with mature audience in mind. Conversations about business over whiskey, parenting talk during bedtime, family dinner debates and a running commentary on superhero laws, permeate the animated film.

But Incredibles 2 is anything but a drab, pretentious dialogue-heavy film. Bird, after a long Incredibles hiatus, seems inspired and recharged, fully prepared to give birth to this sequel. He admirably balances adult comedy and universal fun, treating us to exciting action-packed sequences and cute slapstick gags. He also introduces us to a new set of superheroes that look like inside jokes and freaks, one of them hilariously named Reflux, and another, a female superhero named Voyd, a Kristen Stewart lookalike.

You will derive glee and sympathy from Bob’s parenting struggles, this giant of a dad helpless amidst Violet’s boy troubles, infant Jack-Jack manifesting uncontrollable superpowers, and Dash’s Math homework. And it is riotous every time Helen is cautiously treading around Bob’s fragile ego, with Bob masking his very defined jealousy of his wife’s blossoming career. Meanwhile, there’s a good mystery unraveling, and we find ourselves scratching our chins suspiciously whenever the PR Winston and the beautifully drawn Evelyn appear onscreen.

Costume designer Edna Mode (voiced by Brad Bird) returns, and her snobby diatribe against parenting, while aptly describing the nature of an artist, is the funniest monologue I’ve heard in a long time, deserving of its own comedy space on Netflix.

However, the new villain, Screenslaver (who is obviously a front), is underwhelming and unoriginal. Its behavior, hijacking screens and hypnotizing civilians, is not exactly threatening. In fact, this whole evil agenda feels secondary to the movie’s main story: parenting. And the motive of the real antagonist behind Screenslaver is a bit weak— but forgivable given the superb animation and Bird’s intelligent dialogue.

As always, Pixar’s animation, along with an excellent voice cast ensemble, is breathtaking, the characters perfectly capturing the nuances of human expression and distinct mannerisms. Bird also knows how to manufacture a strong, authentic sense of family dynamics, and the Parrs Family feels like your long-time friends.

Like the original, Incredibles 2 gives us a thrilling retro aesthetic (or maybe the film is really set in the 1960s?). And coupled with a sophisticated film score, the film is deliriously stylish and reminiscent of old spy flicks—very much James Bondian.

Overall, Incredibles 2 may not be that incredible, but it is satisfyingly entertaining for both adults and kids —very much worth that ticket price. It’s indeed a refreshing comeback, with an irresistible edge in the midst of this superhero-saturated era.
3.5 out of 5 stars
June 14, 2018 in Philippine cinemas

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This review also appears in the June 20, 2018 issue of The Daily Tribune, in the author’s column “Film Check.”

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