Friday, June 15, 2018

Marvelous: INCREDIBLES 2

Brad Bird does something, well, incredible with Incredibles 2. Not only is it a worthy successor to his excellent original film -- and one 14 years old at that -- but it also restores honest-to-goodness comic book thrill to the superhero genre. Here is a movie that's so abundantly clever in its construction, so energetically creative in every beat of action involved, that it makes one wonder how we've managed to put up for so long with the turgid punching and cluttered effects explosions that bog down the live-action superheroics that've clogged our screens. For anyone whose mind has numbed to the waves of digital mayhem tumbling indiscriminately out of the last act of any Marvel movie or been lulled into a stupor by the senseless bombast of most DC ones, it's about time we got a reminder color and excitement can be found in putting the concept of a super hero to its best use. Bird knows how to build sequences and shape character, not just to contort them into whiz-bang calamities, but to mold a scene to maximum impact. Here is the story of a superhero family, putting both elements of that concept in full flowering display. It has deeply satisfying boom-pow action -- hurtling helicopters, collapsing urban infrastructure, crackling superpowers, with each sequence fully thought through for how each and every fantasy conceit could be wielded and combined in ever new and entertaining ways -- and a tenderly felt sense of human drama. Bird and his team of artists can build a great childish cartoony gag -- a spray-water-out-your-nose funny visual flourish -- with as much astonishing ease as a soft, talky, casual heart-to-heart between two grown-ups and make it all feel of one piece.

Picking up mere seconds after the 2004 classic ended, this sequel finds superheroes still banned from public life, and the newly formed family unit struggling with how to live up to their potential. How do they go about breaking the law to save it? How best to help kids learn to live in an often cruel and confusing world? It may be set in the past, but it also feels of-the-moment as these questions wrestle on the surface of Pixar's sparkling, swinging mid-century pseudo-60's cool. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, perfect honey drip toughness) is offered a job by a high-powered technology company (led by pleasantly insinuating siblings voiced by Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) who hope to make superheroes legal again. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) struggles with finding the joy in parenting his cute and challenging super-kids (speedy tween (Huckleberry Milner), invisible teen (Sarah Vowell), and mind-bendingly multitalented baby) while letting his wife take center stage. The film is smart about married life, in finding dynamics between the two that reflect a healthy relationship that's nonetheless marked by internalized gender roles and egos only sometimes in check. The kids, too, are relatable in their troubles -- with math homework, with crushes, with TV and sugary cereals. Bird goes in on what could be standard sitcom tropes and imbues them with a sense of warmth and life, like any basically stable family unit buffeted by the everyday struggles of life. It just so happens their struggles entail a dastardly plot by a villainous Screenslaver, whose plan to destroy the reputation of superheroes once and for all leads inexorably to the most satisfying climax of superpower conflagration in ages. The film, grooving on Giacchino's brassy syncopation, is a rat-a-tat riot of heartfelt sentiments and rip-roaring action, staged with the smoothest, eye-boggling visual wit you'd ever hope to see. It's marvelous, and well worth the wait.

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