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EIFF 2018: Incredibles 2 (2018) written and directed by Brad Bird

N.B. This film is not on wide release in the UK until 13th July 2018. It is showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Sunday 24th June 2018.

“Make superheroes legal again!”

This sequel to Pixar’s 2004 success begins with our family of superheroes foiling a bank heist carried out by The Underminer (voiced by John Ratzenberger) using his burrowing machine. Amid the chaos, the supervillain manages to escape, leaving the burrower heading on a collision course with City Hall. While they manage to stop it from completely destroying the edifice, they are arrested on the grounds that superheroism has been made illegal. Their government handler Rick Decker (voiced by Jonathan Banks) manages to bail them out and, since their home was destroyed in the previous film, agrees to put them up in a motel. However, he tells them that he is shutting down the superhero programme due to the fact that the amount of damage that they cause with their do-gooding is making the politicians nervous. It seems that they are condemned to live a normal “Regular Joe” life once more.

Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) in Incredibles 2

However, their closest ally Lucius Best aka Frozone (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) is recruited by the wealthy Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) to persuade Helen aka Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) to sign up for an alternative chance to wear a costume and perform heroic feats. Winston’s idea is that he fits her with a body camera so that the public will be able to take a closer look at their actions rather than just watching the mayhem from a distance and blaming them for all of the damage they cause. He hopes that this will prove to be effective PR for them so that they can be made legal again.

Elastigirl is first put to the test when the city’s new monorail is opened. It goes racing off in the wrong direction, hurtling inexorably towards an unfinished section of track. While she manages to stop it in time to avoid everyone on board being killed, she discovers that the driver has been subjected to mind control, via his monitor, by a mysterious villain who calls goes by the name of The Screenslaver. Meanwhile, Bob aka Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is given his most difficult assignment yet: looking after the children while their mother is away.

Watch a trailer:

An incredible sequel

Pixar’s The Incredibles ranks as one of the CGI animation studio’s most enjoyable efforts: an affectionately hilarious homage to comic book superheroes, complete with a highly satisfying message that’s it’s better to be exceptional and take risks than to be ordinary and live a staid, conforming life. This sequel arrives at a time when we have an embarrassment of riches in the genre, when the MCU films continue to rule both the box office roost and a large amount of respect from the critics. As such, not only does it have the quality of its predecessor to live up to, but also a lot more competition in the marketplace.

Thankfully, this sequel not only matches the original but, in many ways, actually surpasses it. It does all of the requisite “Bigger! Louder! More!” stuff but, at the same time, doesn’t lurch into the overblown excesses of Avengers: Infinity War, where non-stop spectacle was allowed to drown out the smaller, more human moments. Instead, it neatly flips back and forth, on a regular basis, between the frenetic yet entirely graceful action scenes (provided mostly by Elastigirl) and some marvellously crafted moments of touching comedy (provided by Mr. Incredible’s faltering attempts to get to grips with handling his unruly offspring).

The film has a number of ace cards up its sleeve. Firstly, it introduces the vocal talents of the wonderful Bob Odenkirk (Saul from Breaking Bad and its spinoff series Better Call Saul) as the hilariously pepped-up wealthy entrepreneur who has his own heartfelt interest in restoring superheroes to social acceptance. Secondly, the truly sinister and inventive villainy courtesy of The Screenslaver adds a slightly creepy edge to the proceedings without crossing into territory that would make the film unsuitable for a family audience. Thirdly, there’s that hilarious raccoon sequence which would have made for a perfect Pixar short on its own right (I won’t spoil it by going into further detail). Fourthly, Craig T. Nelson brings a genuine human depth to his role as a normally bold hero who begins to doubt his own worth in the eyes of his family. The father/children dynamic here, why obviously given some fantastical embellishments, is so astutely observed that dads and their offspring alike will be laughing out loud in recognition.

The film’s visual design has really benefitted from the 18 years of refinement in the studio’s animation technology, coupled with a more audacious approach to its 1950s-style retro-futurist aesthetic. The many hi-tech vehicles and gadgets which pop up throughout are a joy for the eyes. Michael Giacchino’s James Bond-influenced score is equally pleasing for the ears.

Incredibles 2 is one of Pixar’s best efforts. It’s funny, poignant, inventive, exciting and perfectly paced.

Runtime: 118 mins

Dir: Brad Bird

Script: Brad Bird

Voices: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson, Jonathan Banks, John Ratzenberger

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

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