'Incredibles 2': A Clever, Relevant, Guaranteed Box Office Hit

After a 14-year hiatus, Pixar will release the sequel to “The Incredibles” (2004), a beloved superhero movie about a society that made superheroes illegal. “The Incredibles 2” is set to be a gigantic hit, and audiences of all ages will find it hilarious, heartwarming, and surprisingly culturally relevant in 2018.

“Incredibles 2” launches right where “The Incredibles” ended fourteen long years ago, and the action — and animation — is even better than the original. Witty dialogue, strong character development, and hilarious moments with a super-powered baby combine to make an excellent film, deep and yet light-hearted — and fun for the whole family.

The last movie focused on the struggles of a family forced by law to be normal. Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) has traded in his cape for an aggravating desk job while his wife Helen (Holly Hunter) stays home to take care of the kids — Dash (Spencer Fox), Violet (Sarah Vowell), and the baby Jack Jack (Eli Fucile, Maeve Andrews). Mr. Incredible, the super-strong hero, spends his days commuting to work in a tiny blue car, while Elastigirl, the heroine who twisted criminals in knots, is literally twisted into knots herself by rambunctious children.

Dash, Violet, and Jack Jack all have super powers. Dash begs his dad to let him use them, but the society insists that “everybody’s special.” This societal platitude is blatantly false, but the villain Syndrome (Jason Lee) schemes to give everyone super powers through technology, declaring, “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”

The action-packed finale involves a family working together to defeat the villain. As director Brad Bird put it, “the superhero part is secondary to the roles you play in the family.” Each character grows, learns to trust the family members, and together they save the world.

The sequel shifts in style and substance. If “The Incredibles” asked deep questions about super powers, “Incredibles 2” centers around public relations — and the use and abuse of technology.

Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk, best known for “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”) offers the Parrs and their friend Lucius Best (Samuel L. Jackson) a job — to help him make superheroes legal again. He launches a massive PR campaign to convince the American people — and countries across the world — to accept superheroes once again.

All the while, a techno-villain is rising. “Screenslaver” uses hypnotism and the Internet to remove people’s free will and cause mayhem. “Superheroes are part of the problem,” the villain explains. People “replace true experience with simulation,” and eventually they “can’t bring themselves to rise from their couches.” The villain aims to destroy the Internet, to free people from technology.

This devious plot echoes many concerns in the modern world, and the motivations for it prove even more fascinating. As with cultural moments like Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, people interpret historical events in different ways and the different interpretations can set people on a collision course.

In this way, “Incredibles 2” addresses America’s deep tribal divides, without crossing from fiction into politics. One character celebrates that “we have accomplished something extraordinary in today’s world, we agreed on something.” Another character tells one of the heroes, “If it weren’t for your core beliefs, I think we could have been good friends.”

Comments about people trusting “a monkey throwing darts” over Congress seem particularly a propos. The trailer teased a hilarious moment where Bob Parr struggles to understand his son’s homework, ultimately throwing his hands up saying, “Math is math! Why would they change math!” That exchange actually made the audience burst into knowing laughter and applause in the theater, as parents remembered the disaster of Common Core math.

The beating heart of “Incredibles 2,” just as with “The Incredibles,” is the family dynamic. Edna Mode (Brad Bird) memorably declares, “Done properly, parenting is a heroic act.” This is especially true when the children have super powers! Adding to the hilarity, this film reverses the traditional roles for a time, with Mr. Incredible struggling to be a good stay-at-home dad while Elastigirl becomes the face of superheroes.

The film’s mind-bending action, witty cultural commentary, and hilarious moments — Jack Jack shoots lasers out of his eyes, turns into an angry gorilla-baby, and goes mano-a-mano with a raccoon! — are sure to leave audiences satisfied.

Box office history and cultural trends also suggest “Incredibles 2” will be a hit. The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow, with every new film seeming to eclipse the last. Predictions of “Avengers” fatigue have fallen flat, while Star Wars — of all franchises! — seems to have fallen victim to movie saturation. (After three box office successes, “Solo” didn’t sell at the box office.)

“The Incredibles” came out in 2004, and it racked up an impressive $261 million at the U.S. box office. This superhero flick beat “The Passion of the Christ” (2004), a movie that rode Jesus Christ’s coattails and caused ripples in American popular culture. The only films that beat “The Incredibles” that year were sequels: “Shrek 2,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” and “Spiderman 2.”

“The Incredibles” checked all the boxes: action, comedy, family drama, cultural commentary. The sequel does all the same, but “Incredibles 2” also plays on the long run of Marvel films, mocking the superhero genre, which has become increasingly omnipresent in movie theaters.

There is every reason to suspect that “Incredibles 2” will follow in the original film’s footsteps, and rack up an impressive haul at the box office.

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