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'Incredibles 2' review: Long-awaited sequel is strong, but not super

In Disney Pixar's

 In Disney Pixar's "Incredibles 2," Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight, while Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) navigates the day-to-day heroics of "normal" life at home.   Photo Credit: Disney / Pixar

PLOT This long-awaited sequel finds Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) holding down the home front while Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) works to save the world.

CAST Voices of Nelson, Hunter, Sophia Bush, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Samuel L. Jackson

RATED PG (action scenes)

LENGTH 1:58

BOTTOM LINE The sequel comes across strong, but not as super as a decade-plus wait would suggest.

After his highly successful feature film “The Incredibles” picked up the Oscar for best animated film in 2004, director-writer Brad Bird (“Iron Giant”) said he would make a sequel once he had the right idea. It’s been 14 years, and Bird finally has hatched an idea that resulted in the follow-up to the tale of the superhero family.

Bird should have spent a little less time pondering what to do with the Parr family. Because while “Incredibles 2” is a fun family film, the multiple storylines Bird has woven through the production often get tangled. A little more simplicity would have lifted “Incredibles 2” from good to the incredible status of the first film.

The central story that should have been the focus picks up immediately after the end of the first movie. Those with superpowers are living in a world where they are forbidden by law to use their skills. But that hasn’t stopped the mom-and-dad team of Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), plus their children Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) from fighting crime. The only thing slowing them down is baby Jack-Jack, who needs constant attention.

Things might be changing, as the family is approached by fast-talking Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who — with the help of his tech-minded sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener) — wants to change the way people look at superheroes. His plan is a well-planned publicity campaign that will feature Elastigirl.

How Elastigirl handles the pressure of being in the spotlight and the strain her being away puts on the family are strong enough building blocks to carry the movie. But the central strength of the family dynamic gets pushed down by less interesting plot threads of young love gone wrong, a cautionary tale of technology, sibling rivalries and a bevy of new characters with superpowers. The only one of the new characters that is developed enough to be interesting is Voyd (Sophia Bush), whose kryptonite is teen angst.

One of the advantages of the 14-year gap is technology has dramatically advanced. “Incredibles 2” has a visual richness that makes each frame explode with color, texture and design. It is a beautifully shot production, down to the tiniest hair on a character’s head.

Had Bird not taken advantage of the passing years to keep adding layers to the story, “Incredibles 2” would have lived up to the power and beauty of the original film. As it is, the sequel comes across strong, but not as super as a decade-plus wait would suggest.

Bird takes flight

Brad Bird, the man behind both “Incredibles” movies, got an early break as a writer on Steven Spielberg’s television series “Amazing Stories,” which may explain why his own work has such kinetic energy, humor and a sense of wonder. Here are four more Bird creations:

THE IRON GIANT (1999) Bird’s directorial debut, about a boy who discovers a mysterious robot in his hometown, was a box-office disappointment upon its release. Today, it’s considered a modern classic for its warm animation and affectionate nods toward 1950s sci-fi films.

RATATOUILLE (2007) The animated story of a French rat (Patton Oswalt) who dreams of becoming a chef would seem to have an unavoidable ick factor: rodents and food. Yet the movie became an instant hit and still ranks as one of Pixar’s best, thanks partly to Bird’s romantically rendered Parisian alleyways and inviting kitchens.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — GHOST PROTOCOL (2011) Bird’s first live-action film marked the fourth installment of the “M:I” espionage franchise. It also marked a departure from the earlier, harder-hitting films, striking a light, fun, almost kid-friendly tone. It earned a healthy $694 million worldwide.

TOMORROWLAND (2015) It makes sense that Bird, once an animator at Disney, would make a movie based on the company’s utopian theme-park. Despite the lavish retro-futurist sets and the star-power of George Clooney, however, “Tomorrowland” failed to connect with audiences. — RAFER GUZMAN

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