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It’s taken 14 years for Pixar and Brad Bird to create a follow-up to The Incredibles, the much-beloved superhero movie from 2004. With anticipation — and nervousness — about the movie at fever-pitch, the review embargo has ended, letting fans see whether the second outing is a happy return or a terrible mistake. Spoiler: According to critics, it’s not the latter.
“Boosted by central characters that remain vastly engaging and a deep supply of wit, Incredibles 2 certainly proves worth the wait, even if it hits the target but not the bull’s eye in quite the way the first one did,” writes The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, a take that is echoed by many other critics.
“The word that I kept thinking of was fluid. I have three kids, so trust me when I say that this is not a common word when it comes to family entertainment, much of which shoehorns in messages between clunky comedy scenes with no concern for flow and pacing. Incredibles 2 just moves beautifully, sliding from one scene to another with such grace and momentum. And the action sequences are among the best you’ll see all year,” says Brian Tallerico on RogerEbert.com. “It’s a movie that’s constantly in motion, surprising you with the way it so seamlessly flows from action to comedy to family and back again, buoyed by a jazzy, fantastic score by Michael Giacchino. It’s a testament to Bird’s filmmaking ability how effortless Incredibles 2 often feels.”
Vulture’s David Edelstein agrees, writing, “Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2 is, much like its predecessor, delightful as an animated feature but really, really delightful as a superhero picture. It’s proof that someone (not anyone, mainly Bird) can make a Marvel-type movie that’s fleet and shapely, with action sequences rich in style rather than tumult. He’s a crackerjack filmmaker first and a marvelous animator a close second, and he has made the jazziest hybrid in years.”
Writing for The Washington Post, Michael O’Sullivan observes, “Perhaps most intriguingly, Incredibles 2 is both pop-culture eye candy and a sly critique of it — albeit one delivered in the form of the bad guy, who rails against the mediation of screens as a poor substitute for unfiltered life experience. I don’t need to tell you who wins here, but it’s refreshing to see a movie sequel that can question its own existence, even as it revels in it.”
For some, the movie’s questioning is one of the problems with it, as it doesn’t go far enough. Take Slate’s Sam Adams, who writes, “Bird wants to be a filmmaker of ideas, but his movies are at their best when they’re pure action, whether it’s Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol or Elastigirl chasing a runaway maglev train on her motorcycle. The action sequences in Incredibles 2, which was edited by Stephen Schaffer, are elegantly conceived and fluidly executed, as good as anything we’re likely to see on screen this year, in animation or live action, which only makes the rest of the movie seem that much clunkier by comparison.”
Similarly, Bilge Ebiri writes in The Village Voice, “Early on, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl have an intriguing dinner-table debate over whether to abide by the strictures of an unjust society. (‘If laws are unjust there are laws to change them. Otherwise, it’d be chaos.’ ‘Which is exactly what we have!’) You might expect that such a philosophical dispute would then shape the narrative action and the characters’ choices the rest of the movie, but you’d be wrong.”
Screen International’s Tim Grierson, while praising the movie’s “dazzling set pieces,” writes, “If there’s one quibble with this nimble entertainment, it’s that Bird’s eye-popping flair outpaces his story’s emotional resonance. Incredibles 2 is such a fleet treat that it doesn’t always stop for its characters’ pathos to really connect: Mr. Incredible’s threatened masculinity, Elastigirl’s newly awakened independence and Violet’s awkward dating woes all streak by too quickly.”
The measured praise continues from Vanity Fair, courtesy of Richard Lawson. “Incredibles 2 is that kind of full-bodied picture, engaging and inventive and rendered with muscle. I suppose my only real issues with it are the same things that vaguely bother me about almost all Pixar movies: It’s almost too slick, too assured, too cute and clever. (Is the word for all of this ‘smug’?),” he writes. “That’s a wan critique to make if you can’t point to anything specific that bothered you about a movie beyond it seeming too confident, but there it is. Incredibles 2, like so many other wonderments from this premier animation house, left a little pebble in my shoe, a pea under the mattress, that kept me from fully embracing it. Maybe it’s the whiff of stale gender politics wafting off the movie’s domestic comedy. Or it’s the stain of all that Atlas Shrugged stuff lingering from the first film — and not challenged by the second.”
At heart, though, everyone seems to agree that — even with its faults — Incredibles 2 is as good a superhero movie as has been seen in years, and one of the best sequels in recent memory, as well. Or, as USA Today’s Brian Truitt puts it, “Pixar doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to sequels, but this follow-up surpasses most everything without Toy Story in the title. The animation is stellar and detailed in excellent action sequences, Michael Giacchino’s score swings harder than ever, and the first film’s family-friendly warmth is just as appealing now as it was then, even if Incredibles 2 isn’t totally incredible itself.”
Incredibles 2 leaps into theaters Friday.
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