By Shreehari H
Some families—spandex-wearing ones in particular—hold together best when they are at their most dysfunctional. The Supers in director Brad Bird’s franchise about an eccentric family with superhero powers have always made for a rather idiosyncratic, unconventional household. It is their inherently tempestuous dynamic that continues to be mined for laughs in the latest film as well.
It all begins with the explosion of a car in a parking lot.
The film starts right where it left off in the previous installment and lifts off in sixth gear with our heroes battling the Underminer, a delightfully cheesy villain voiced by John Ratzenberger. “Consider yourself undermined!” he declares with all the pomposity he can muster, and it is then that we realize how much the kids in the family have grown up already. “Everybody stay back!” Dash (Huck Milner) says after taking charge of the situation, saving an old lady in the process, and even Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell) is a lot more confident and assertive now. Tony, stuck underneath a car amidst all this mayhem, ends up discovering something that he evidently wasn’t meant to witness (“I wish I could forget I ever saw her in that suit.”) and promptly flees the scene, while a certain mother contorts herself into a makeshift trampoline and helps her husband scale untraversed heights.
The politicians in the film are luddites in their own right. Ever in pursuit of an excuse to undermine their world-saving counterparts, they believe it is the Supers who have caused unmitigated damage to the city and caused the Underminer to remain at large. “If you had simply done nothing, everything would now be proceeding in an orderly fashion,” they tell the Incredibles, who suddenly find themselves being described as “illegal”. They now have no alternative but to go underground owing to how easily malleable public perception tends to be these days. “People see what politicians tell them to see. They see destruction and they see you,” explains Winston Deaver to the beleaguered Parrs, a man who runs a “world-class communications company” called DevTech. He also happens to be a firm proponent of superhero rights, and his overriding ambition is to realize a less dystopian future where all Supers are made legal again.
As was the case in the original 2004 film, much of the joy in this sequel comes from how fleshed out its characters are.
The mother may be moonlighting as a superhero named Elastigirl, but hers is a life that centres on the well-being of her toddler (a scene-stealing Jack-Jack). She believes that any hope they might have entertained about becoming Supers again should strictly be relegated to the realm of fantasy, and that they cannot afford to rely on anyone else again.
She’s a self-admitted hypocrite, one who gets all bashful when pushed into the limelight.
The dad, for his part, is of the view that heavyweight problems need heavyweight solutions. “What am I, a substitute parent?” a disgruntled Bob asks himself one night when he is all to himself. There is even a hint of spousal jealousy when he sees his wife on the big screen receiving accolade after accolade for saving a runaway train without any casualties.
The biggest throwaway is when he says that all he wants is to be a good dad.
In Incredibles 2, Violet is in the throng of adolescence. She throws teenage tantrums so acute that she considers giving up her alter-ego for what she presupposes would be an indefinite period of time, having paid the price for a choice that she never made in the first place. She can’t help but feel that fighting crime as a family is cool and that adapting to an ever-changing world is a necessity for superheroes like them. Her brother, Dash, is an ardent hater of vegetables, one who pronounces decimals as “denismals” and can’t withstand the sheer mundanity of learning fractions and percentages when the stakes are so much higher. As mentioned earlier, however, the real star of the film is Jack-Jack himself: a polymorph with so much potential that he can levitate upside down and fly like a self-propelled rocket. He’s a little tyke, this kid, and he’s made all the more adorable by his predisposition towards Mozart’s music.
One of the biggest strengths of the Incredibles franchise has been in how grounded the family remains in spite of the fact that they always fly high, and this film is no different. There are little touches, like the mother’s sound getting muffled for a moment when she goes about brushing her teeth, and the father pausing to remove his glasses before debating the right way to solve a homework problem with his kid, that go a long way in making these characters as well-realized as they are. As befits a movie with Walt Disney and Pixar in the credits, the artistry here is a thing of beauty, and the protagonists are so beautifully animated that I could lose myself in the rotundity of their eyes. Towards the end of the film, we even see the family blast off into crime-fighting orbit in their car (a delightfully named Incredibile) for what is clearly another sequel in the making. We can only lick our lips in bated anticipation for now. There’s something exhilarating about watching a Bird in full flight.
Shreehari H is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.
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