Jack-Jack, So Good You Had To Name Him Twice: A Review of "The Incredibles 2"
Incredibles 2 is a fast two hours, with director Brad Bird cramming in a lot of stuff, and successfully putting together a sequel that truly extends the franchise, and throws up enough new stuff to make the said two hours whiz by. From an action-packed opening sequence, we transition to an interrogation room where the Incredibles themselves are being questioned on their usefulness and relevance. This is Bird at his best, juggling the action portions with the story aspect he wants us to appreciate.
From that point, it’s a continuous balancing act between these two sides of the film. Thematically, there’s a lot Bird wants to expand on, all without foregoing the fun and mayhem any superhero film worth its’ weight has to deliver on. Besides the nagging shadow of ‘Do we need superheroes at all?’, there are statements about free enterprise and big business, about government, about the role of women outside the home, and feminism itself. In this age of #MeToo and women empowerment, it’s telling how it’s Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) who’s thrust in the role of superhero savior, while in a hilarious reversal of roles and to his utter chagrin, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is forced to play stay-home Dad.
It’s during this stay home period that the best bits of the film come to light, playing on the ultimate themes of family and keeping it all together. And the absolute scene-stealer here is Jack-Jack, coming into his own and stumbling upon his own unique set of superpowers. The scene of Jack-Jack fighting with a raccoon is my personal highlight. It doesn’t really push the story forward; but the sheer invention and blatant fun that Bird is having here is palpable. Imagine a Tom & Jerry sequence but with superpowers—and it’s something both the adults and kids in the audience will love for different reasons.
The supporting cast is strong in this outing—from the by now familiar Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) to superhero costume designer Edna (Brad Bird himself), to newbies zillionaire Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener). Violet (Sarah Vowell) and her major boy problems, while Dash (Huck Milner) stumping his dad with his Math lessons, are similarly great sidebar stories that make these cartoon characters so very real.
The animation is top notch—from the stubble on Mr. Incredible’s visage to the smoke that lingers after explosions and crashes—they all help suspend disbelief, and help us see these characters as more than just animated protagonists. Their issues and problems are very real, very human. And if that has been one of the assets of the Incredibles magic, that when out of costume, they interact like a regular family; then this second instalment has that asset as one of its greatest strengths.
And of course, there’s Jack-Jack, primed to jumpstart a franchise on his own. While there are moments when a Bird seems to be taking on too much, by and large, this is Entertainment in its purest form, and certainly passes the successful sequel test with flying colors.