There are so many untold stories movies could be telling, but nostalgia is a lucrative business and the sequel/reboot industry will always prevail. Even with this movie — which is very good, if not great — the novelty starts to wear off and you're left remembering that it's yet another sequel. Your heart sinks as your brain begins to spiral, wondering if we'll ever escape this self-made prison. It's not better than The Incredibles, but it's not worse either, which is probably the best we can hope for in life.
Fourteen years ago, Disney-Pixar released The Incredibles, a refreshing animated movie about a retired superhero couple trying to juggle kids, jobs and an embedded desire to save the world. It had a familiarity built on references to traditional superhero and spy movies, but also a freshness in its exposure of the under-explored world of superhero families. The superheroes in movies traditionally have no kids or spouses, just an occasional love interest. But the strength of Incredibles is always that it shows how a supportive family actually makes heroes stronger.
Incredibles 2 picks up right where the original left off, with Bob/Mr. Incredible and Helen/Elastigirl costumed up with their kids Dash, Violet and baby Jack-Jack as they prepare to fight a new villain. They save the day, but the government losers think it was a messy job and make superheroes even more illegal.
The family is forced into motel life until Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a rich man who loves capitalism and yachts, enlists Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Helen Hunt) and their friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) in a new campaign to prove that the world needs superheroes to do what the government can't. But he's all teeth and haircut; the real brain behind the operation is his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), a warm and wry but not entirely trustworthy inventor.
While Elastigirl is chosen to launch the project, preventing train accidents and fighting hypnosis, Bob is left at home to watch the kids. As Kevin James sitcoms have taught us, men don't know how to change a diaper or cook a meal deal with daughters. When Dash (Huck Milner) needs help with his homework, Bob gets frustrated and relatably yells, "Why would they change math?! Math is math!" Violet (Sarah Vowell) is having boy troubles and Bob only makes them worse. He's a bull in a china shop, if the bull looks like a buff Sterling Cooper employee and the china shop is the well-being of his family.
And then there's Jack-Jack, a demon baby from hell who recently began having powers, which includes shooting lasers from his eyes, crawling through walls and turning into a literal devil, and can only be calmed upon receiving a cookie (same). But after the third time the chaotic baby interrupts his family's fight against bad guys, it starts to feel less cute and more minion-esque.
Meanwhile, Elastigirl, even thiccer than in the original, is having the time of her life fighting crime and going on talk shows. It's a flip of the first movie, where it's Mr. Incredible out saving the world while his wife watches the kids. Elastigirl spends most of the sequel away from her husband and kids while Bob is stuck at home, resenting his wife's chance at glory until he softens and realizes being a good dad is heroic on its own.
It's also worth noting that it's the only superhero movie in recent memory where the hero and villain are both women. Apparently, it's possible for two different women to exist at once without causing a tear in the fabric of the universe.
It's been a tough couple of years and as a result, this summer is all about movies that are big, fun and easy to like. Incredibles 2 is a bright and bouncy addition to the lineup and a refreshing turn from recent dark and brooding superhero movies about men who miss their parents.
P.S.: The price of admission is worth it alone to see the animated short, Bao, that airs beforehand, about a mother who cares for a crying dumpling after it becomes sentient and adorable. We're talking Coco levels of emotions here.