Brad Bird returns to animation, his ideal medium, with this sequel to Incredibles some 14 years later. The entire cast returns in well. When the original came out, superhero films were still a novelty. Now that there are several films in this genre each year, what exactly can Incredibles 2 do that is fresh and new?
The answer lies in the way the plot mostly diverts the superhero genre in favor of a film about balancing work and family and joys and terrors of parenting. Opening up pretty much where the first film ended, we find that the Parr family are getting blamed for the destructive nature of their battles with evil-doers. The use of superpowers are banned and things look pretty bleak for the superhero family. Then Winston (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener) show up as super-rich siblings who want to manage PR for them and try to get the ban lifted. They select Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to kick off the new image, attaching cameras to her super-suit so that every heroic move can be shown to the world. This leaves Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) to play Mr. Mom.
The plot takes a little bit to get going and the film's third act reveal can be seen a mile away but Incredibles 2 quickly finds the rhythm of the original film. Early on there is a fantastic chase sequence involving Elastigirl on a motorcycle trying to stop a runaway train. The sequence dazzles with Bird's confident execution of action sequences. In fact, the film features some of his best action sequences since Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Frequently it feels that superhero fights get reduces to a lot of punching but here Bird and company continually think of clever ways to incorporate the specific powers of characters into the action.
Another hilarious sequence involves Jack Jack, the youngest Incredible, and a raccoon. The filmmakers have asked we don't spoil some of the surprises found in this sequence so I will refrain from details but the result is comedic gold. While there are some questionable gender role fears at play here, they mostly feel dated, the film is brimming with creativity. The set design with its retro feel is a constant thing to behold.
The film's best theme comes from the midlife crisis subplot involving Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible. They both wrestle with past glory days and wanted to prove they can still handle anything. While the film doesn't have the discovery element of the first film and occasional missteps, Incredibles 2 is still a blast and proof that Bird thrives in animations.