In “Incredibles 2,” the villain is named “The Screenslaver,” a monster straight out of the American Id, as relevant as each day’s latest panic-stricken headlines.
Screenslaver has identified our weakness — “screens,” that we “don’t talk. You watch talk shows. You don’t play games, you watch game shows.”
And another Achilles heel — “People will trade quality for ease every time.”
People have “less trust in Congress” to do the right thing “than monkey’s throwing darts.”
When Elastigirl, Mrs. Incredible, figures all this out, she announces “We’re under ATTACK.” And in the cartoon America, at least, people hear her.
“Incredibles 2” is a superhero action comedy that’s about something, and when’s the last time the moneychangers at Marvel could make that claim? Writer-director Brad Bird has loaded a noisy, long and daffy farce with the most potent Pixar political message since “Wall-E.”
“Screens” are a threat to our freedom.
The much-called-for and long-awaited sequel to “The Incredibles” took 14 years to reach the silver screen, and the animation is even more dazzling, the action beats every bit as thrilling and fun (if repetitive) as the first one.
Is it a major departure or vast improvement over the original? Not really.
But Bird, after dabbling in “Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol” and the eye-opening flop “Tomorrowland” has returned to the medium where he is undisputed master. He visualized a Year of the Woman period piece that’s still about family, but with a heavy dose of female empowerment and those messages about the screens that are threatening our way of life.
“Supers” have been banned from using those superhero powers for 15 years, now. That’s left the Parrs, Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) pretty much homeless.
Until this wiley PR genius (Bob Odenkirk) and his tech-whiz sister (Catherine Keener) pitch them a way to get back into legality and into the public’s good graces. Maybe the ham-fisted Bob, Mr. Incredible, can maintain a low profile. They’ll throw Elastigirl, less of a bull-in-a-china-shop and more a heroine to young girls, into the crime fighting fray as the public face for super-powered do-gooders.
Unemployed Bob has to stay home, help Dash with his “New Math” homework (remember, this is set in the late ’50s/early ’60s), keep the peace with the rebellious Violet and control the suddenly super-powered toddler Jack-Jack.
Elastigirl? She’s ready to mix it up, make her case, “impose (my) will on the status quo.”
Big chase set-pieces involve an Elasticycle, a hover-train and a hydrofoil motor yacht. Fights involve all sorts of superheroes with superpowers.
And Bob gets to Be Incredi-Dad, overwhelmed by the kids’ issues, but helped by saucy designer/advisor Edna (voiced by Bird).
Jack-Jack’s smorgasbord of un-controlled super powers — laser eyes, dimension leaping and the like — get the biggest laughs, especially when he throws down with a racoon. Bird’s Edna, still a spot-on spin on a high tech Anna Wintour, remains hysterical.
The family stuff tends to slow the picture down, and like his counter-parts in Marvel movies, Bird has a hard time giving every character enough to say and do. Anachronisms creep into this alternate future/past a lot more often than they did in the first film. The visuals, including an alarming brawl within a video screenscape and battles with the burrowing “Underminer” (John Ratzenberger, of course), ice effects from FroZone (Samuel L. Jackson), are a big leap beyond what was possible 14 years ago.
Listen for Isabella Rosellini as an embattled ambassador and Barry Bostwick of “Spin City,” still playing a mayor, and chuckle at Hunter’s Elastigirl complaint about being rebranded via costume — “I’m not all dark and angsty!”
And take to heart that Big Idea, the subtext that characters chew on in philosophically adult ways in scene after scene. Bird and the Incredibles are talking to us.
“You want out of the hole,” one character counsels, “first you gotta put down the shovel.”
MPAA Rating: PG for action sequences and some brief mild language
Cast: The voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Catherine Keener, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk
Credits: Written and directed by Brad Bird . A Disney/Pixar release.
Running time: 1:58