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After a 14-year hiatus, the Parr family is finally back for more superhero shenanigans in Pixar’s Incredibles 2, a sequel that retains the zippy, funny spirit of the original. It’s not as good as the first, but it is still Pixar’s best “sequel” since Toy Story 3.

The film picks up where the last one left off, with a criminal named Underminer (the voice of the ever-Pixar-present John Ratzenberger) looking to cause some trouble—just as teen Violet Parr (Sarah Vowell) is meeting a boy. Superheroes remain in hiding, but rich tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) is looking to change that.

Winston has a plan to get superheroes back in the limelight, and that plan involves Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter) fighting crime and gaining publicity on a crazy new motorbike. While she’s out getting her superhero groove on, Mr. Incredible/Bob (Craig T. Nelson) must stay at home and take care of the kids, including Violet, Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile).

To recap the children’s powers, Violet can go invisible and produce force fields, while Dash is really fast. Jack-Jack, as we found out near the end of the original, has emerging powers himself—and Bob is newly witnessing them all. Jack-Jack can do a lot of things: He can reproduce himself, journey to other dimensions, catch fire and turn himself into a demon baby. The Jack-Jack subplot gets a lot of laughs, most of them out of the baby’s sheer amusement with himself.

Of course, Bob’s superpowers will be needed again, and the whole family will eventually need to save the world from comical baddies. While the film feels a bit repetitive at times, the great voice work by Hunter, Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone keep it consistently entertaining. Bird himself returns as the voice of fashion guru Edna Mode, who becomes Auntie Edna when Jack-Jack and his exhausted dad are in dire need of a baby sitter. Make no mistake: It’s Jack-Jack and his cookie-craving craziness that steal the show this time.

As with the original, it’s the little nuances that make the Incredibles so much fun. I still love how Elastigirl’s mouth curves when she talks—a direct ode to Hunter’s actual face—and Violet’s teen angst continues to be hilarious. The original Incredibles was groundbreaking for its onscreen action, and this one continues in that tradition. There’s also a memorable new villain in Screenslaver, an entity that hypnotizes people into submission via video screens. No doubt: This a nod to and critique of our modern-day attachment to screened devices.

In a nice piece of stunt casting, the character of Rick Dicker, voiced in the original by the late Bud Luckey, has been recast with the voice of Jonathan Banks. Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fans know Banks as the henchman of Saul—aka Bob Odenkirk—so having both their voices here is neat stuff for geeks.

It may seem a little odd that the sequel-happy Pixar took so long to give the Parr family another chapter—but the reason for the wait falls squarely on writer-director Brad Bird’s shoulders. Bird created the characters, and Pixar gave him autonomy when it came to giving them another chapter. Bird wasn’t in any kind of rush, so we might have to wait another decade plus for another chapter.

That’s OK. While the Incredibles are clearly ripe for many stories, one great chapter (the original) and another very good one (this installment) make for a great franchise already—and a surefire summer good time for everybody in the family.

Incredibles 2 is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

The future is confusing and convoluted—but kind of cool anyway—in Tomorrowland, the latest Disney attraction to get its own movie, in this case courtesy of director-writer Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles).

Boy-genius Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) and his jetpack attend the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, N.Y., in a wonderful sequence that re-creates the legendary event. After sparring with the curator of an invention contest (Hugh Laurie), the despondent boy winds up sulking on a bench, where he is given a special pin by a mysterious young girl named Athena (the absolutely incredible Raffey Cassidy).

During a ride through “It’s a Small World” (which Walt Disney actually premiered at the fair), Frank finds himself transported into a strange world, seemingly in the future, where robots repair his jetpack, and Athena resides. In short, it’s a world where inventive people like Frank can thrive.

Cut to the present day, where a super-intelligent teenage girl, Casey (25-year-old Britt Robertson wearing a baseball cap to appear younger), is trying to sabotage the destruction of a Cape Canaveral launch site. She wants to be an astronaut someday, and her dad (Tim McGraw) is a NASA engineer, so the lack of a space program is a big bummer for Casey. She, too, is given a pin by Athena. Casey touches the pin, and is instantly transported to Tomorrowland.

After a brief stay, she’s transported back home, much to her chagrin. She eventually winds up in the company of a grown-up Frank Walker (George Clooney … hooray!), who has become a hermit living in a New York house littered with gadgets. Clooney is perfect in the role of a former dreamer who has grown up to be bitter, although Walker still has the time and gumption to make a bathtub that transforms into a rocket.

Everything eventually leads to another Tomorrowland visit, where we discover things about the fate of the place—and Earth itself. On the way to the halfway decent finale, Bird provides some great battles involving ticked-off robots, dazzling special effects filled with fun Disney Easter eggs (You can see Space Mountain in the Tomorrowland skyline!) and some truly great performances.

The true star of this movie is Cassidy, a relative newcomer who owns her every second of screen time. Her performance, as a futuristic scout with big secrets and an ability to kick major ass, is one of the year’s best so far.

Robertson is a mighty fun protagonist, and gets the most screen time. Her character is some sort of child prodigy, although it’s never fully revealed why she is that way. While the character isn’t fully fleshed out, Robertson is a winning-enough presence that it’s easy to forgive the shortcomings in the script. Again, she’s playing way below her age, but she pulls it off.

Clooney gets to mix a bit of his cantankerous persona with his gentle side. He has classic Hollywood looks that are right at home in a Disney film. This is one of his funnest roles in years.

The script was co-written by Lost and Prometheus scribe Damon Lindelof, so, naturally, all of the dots don’t seem to be connected. Lindelof’s work can be a little ambiguous, and even confusing, but it’s always interesting. If you like your movies tied up in a nice little bow, the works of Lindelof are not for you. As for me, I have a fun time trying to figure his stuff out, even if I don’t come up with all of the answers.

The film’s production was shrouded in secrecy, which may have actually hurt it to some extent, because some might attend Tomorrowland looking for more than what they actually get. The big reveals don’t necessarily live up to all of the hype. Even so, this is a fun film, with some great ideas that provide a cool mythology for one of Disney’s most popular attractions.

Tomorrowland is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews