Incredibles 2 picks up exactly where the original movie left off, with the superpowered family forced to fight off the Underminer (John Ratzenberger), the wacky screwdriver monster attacking the city. Meanwhile, Violet Parr (Sarah Vowell) struggles with her identity as a superhero when a boy she likes accidentally sees her without her mask and has his memory of her completely wiped by the government. The whole family is taken by surprise when mom/Elastigirl Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) is asked to come work for the government on a special mission that will hopefully make the case for legalizing superheroes after they were outlawed in the first place.
These new developments put Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), on the path to his most dangerous assignment yet: a stay-at-home dad tasked with raising the kids.
The return of the Incredibles family, along with favorite Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), is sure to bring many laughs and memorable moments for those fans who’ve waited years to spend time with the Parr family again. As with the 2004 original the animation is truly amazing, the voice-acting spectacular, all serving a storyline that’s a big improvement as we come to know the whole family on a deeper and more satisfying level.
Incredibles 2’s greatest conceit is how it reverses gender-roles of both the familiar family and superhero dynamics, shining some much-needed light on the strengths and powers a female has in our society, even one populated with superheroes and villains. Helen’s new responsibilities mimics her own stretchy superpowers, literally pulling her in different directions as she multitasks relationships between her own family and duties to new friend and Elastigirl fan Voyd (Sophia Bush, Acts of Violence).
As progressive as this can feel, Bob’s initial reaction to his wife’s success feels more disappointing than funny as he reveals jealousy and contempt when forced to stay home and help son Dash’s (Huck Milner) homework, his daughter’s teenage angst, and baby Jack-Jack’s growing powers and abilities. Perhaps Incredibles 2 is attempting to speak to the mindset of our society’s outmoded ideals regarding ‘proper’ gender roles, but even in the context of a superhero fantasy it can still feel years behind.
It’s unfortunate that it needs to be said once again, but women are firmly in the workplace, with or without the support of their spouses, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s time that men, superhero and otherwise, were more supportive with empowered females around the world. Like the film’s underlying message, we all work best when working together for the greater good. That alone is a pretty super idea.
Another issue that many will think is funny, but upon careful examination deserves far fewer laughs than it got was a scene where Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) engages in an all-out, drag out fight with a raccoon. While this may come off as hilarious to some, it’s actually suggesting horrible child vs. animal violence that most adults will probably discount. For kids who don’t know better, animal cruelty wasn’t the best example to set. Granted, we are talking about an animated fantasy film, though given it’s geared toward children and adults alike writer/director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Ratatouille) should have been more sensitive to the content he mass-produces to the world.
These criticisms aside, Incredibles 2 is a great time at the movies with the family, super or otherwise. While a family-friendly superhero epic may not have been the ideal way to express many of the more forward-thinking ideas on gender and equality, I’m sure even the most diehard fans will appreciate its messaging. Sure to be one of the year’s best animated films, there’s more than enough laughs, action and unpredictable twists to keep you wanting more.