Warning: This review contains spoilers from 'The Incredibles 2.'
"Help me bring supers back into the sunlight."
That's the premise of 'The Incredibles 2', released on June 15, fourteen years after Disney-Pixar released the original film about a family of underground super heroes trying to be normal. While more than a decade has passed since that first film, no time lapses between it and its well-done sequel, which has made box-office history.
To refresh your memory: Bob and Helen Parr (Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter) used to be Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, respectively. But after a lawsuit brought by a man saved against his will by Mr. Incredible, legislation forces super heroes underground. So Bob works in a mind-numbingly oppressive job at an insurance company (illegally performing superhero work at night) while Helen raises their three children -- Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner), and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) -- in as "normal" a fashion as possible. After losing his job, Bob is secretly hired to do super hero work for a mysterious benefactor. Well-paying and right up his alley, Bob accepts. Without spoiling the original (watch it if you haven't; re-watch it if you have), I'll just say things don't go according to plan. The original is heartfelt, funny, and well done.
Sequels often aren't. Especially when they're rushed, and therefore weak and sloppy, in order to make bank on a popular film. 'The Incredibles 2' was neither rushed nor weak.
It picks up right where the first film left off. Leaving a school track meet, the Parr family are faced with The Underminer (John Ratzenberger in his trademark Pixar cameo). In an effort to stop this villain (who we need to see more of!), the Parrs suit up and become the Incredibles. What ensues is chaos and destruction, the Underminer gets away, and our superheroes are in trouble. Superhero work is still illegal, so Bob and Helen are detained and then shuffled off to a hotel. There, they learn the government agency that managed underground superheroes is being shuttered and -- with it -- they're losing their friend and ally Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks). The Parrs have two weeks to find work and a place to live.
Enter Winston Deavor (enthusiastically voiced by Bob Odenkirk) and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener). They're head of DevTech, and Winston's dream is to make it legal to do superhero work again. Ever a salesman, Winston insists Elastigirl be the face of his initial efforts to reintroduce superheroes to society (because Mr. Incredible is just too destructive, as the encounter with The Underminer demonstrated). Reluctant to leave the family and unsure of Bob's ability to handle things, Elastigirl hesitates -- but ultimately accepts -- Winston's offer.
The family is placed in one of Winston's upscale homes, where Bob assumes the role of stay-at-home dad with predictable, but hilarious, results. Parents will relate to his laments over Bob's struggles with Dash's homework: "I don't know that way. Why would they change math? Math is math! Math is math!"; his difficulty dealing with the drama of a teenage daughter and her first crush; and dealing with a baby more challenging than most as the family learns what we knew at the end of the first film: Jack-Jack has some pretty...incredible superpowers of his own.
While the plot itself was slightly predictable (my eldest, age 11, pegged the villain almost immediately), the action sequences were intense (my five-year-old had to crawl into my lap at one point), the comedy is golden (there's a scene between Jack-Jack and an animal that had me crying laughing), and the underlying message cannot be ignored because that's where the heart of the film lies: Elastigirl ultimately does what she does so her children can have the choice whether or not to live openly as superheroes.
There is also a legitimate point that those affected by flashing strobe-like lights should take caution, as the villain employs them while carrying out his nefarious work, so if you have epilepsy or the like, be aware. Disney has issued a warning about it, too.
'The Incredibles 2', like its predecessor, has some political overtones, but they are relevant to the plot (the illegality of superhero work), and not used as a brickbat against the audience. The animation, as always, is stunning. And it tells a good story featuring characters you care about -- something that's often lacking in Hollywood these days. It also leaves open wide the door for more sequels as well as introducing other superheroes who may deserve some fleshing out, like Void (Sophia Bush). And if it takes another 14 years for something this good, I'm okay with that.