Reel Dad: The Incredibles 2: Simply incredible

I usually stay away from movies with numerals behind it’s title. Especially the animated variety.

While I appreciate why studios create sequels — to capitalize on the popularity of hit movies — too many sequels feel reheated in the cinema kitchen without any new ingredients.

But the new edition of The Incredibles titled, no surprise, The Incredibles 2, is simply wonderful, a reason for anyone who loves movies to rush to the theater. And the perfect family film for (finally) the start of summer.

Am I surprised? Yes. While I loved the original, I could not imagine how its magical blend of comedy, action and humanity could be recreated much less expanded. But the new Incredibles creates a fresh movie experience by tossing in enough reminders of why we loved the first film without letting our memories trap the filmmakers into duplication. The results are extraordinary.

And we know the movie will work from the first moment.

Immediately we return to the unique world populated by a family that saves humanity, and deals with real family issues, all in the same days. We’re again treated to questions that all parents face. How do we balance what our work requires with the time our children need? How do we try to make the right choices for our kids even when those decisions may not be popular? And how do we help our offspring become who they can be without making up their minds.

The parents in Incredibles 2 deal with family realities at the same time they respect their needs to protect their society from villains. But that’s not going well when the film begins. Because superheroes are against the law, these parents with extraordinary powers face the realities of securing conventional employment and searching for a place to live. Then, in a twist, a successful business mogul with a heart comes up with a scheme to return the superheroes to public acceptance, aided by his sister who knows how to use technology.

From this delicate premise, writer/director Brad Bird cleverly expands the narrative of the first film, retains the visual magic of its mid-century design, deepens the family relationships, and manages to inject light commentary of issues that plague our world today. Without letting the film get heavy with its point of view, or slow the action to deliver an editorial, Bird raises questions we all should consider, including how we protect our intentions to be inclusive, stand by traditions of right and wrong, and look for leaders who govern by principal rather than segmented sentiment. Amazingly, in an animated world far from our own, Bird says a lot about what’s happening in our world this week. Plus, any chance to experience the work of vocal cast members Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson and, especially, Catherine Kenner is icing on the cake.

Yes, I usually fear sequels. But this one is so good it restores my belief in creative moviemaking. Bird took a chance waiting 14 years to pick up where he left off. And it’s been worth the wait.

Film Nutritional Value: The Incredibles 2

  • Content: High. Once again, Pixar uses a story filled with action and humor to help people understand something quite complicated.
  • Entertainment: High. Visually, the movie pushes the boundaries of animation, especially in its interpretation of the balance every parent faces.
  • Message: High. As the film entertains, it also makes us think about the challenge in any society of how to retain a high moral ground.
  • Relevance: High. Any opportunity to have fun at the movies and discover something to talk about — as a family — is welcome.
  • Opportunity for Dialogue: High. There’s plenty to talk about from the dazzling visuals to the fun performances and the meaningful moral.

The Incredibles 2 is rated PG for “action sequences and some brief mild language.” The film runs 2 hours, 5 minutes. 5 Popcorn Buckets.

Inside Out: How fascinating the human mind

Hollywood loves to look inside people’s minds.

And, as we see in The Incredibles, well-crafted animation can produce more insight into human behavior than many live-action films.

While conventional films often look at behavior from the outside — by showing the steps and words that emotions inspire — the creative animators at Pixar can journey anywhere they wish to examine what makes people interesting. Live action movie makers may try to explain the mind by looking at what people say and do while Pixar can travel inside to explore the ins and outs of all those emotions that drive how people act.

In the wonderful “Inside Out” we meet an 11-year-old girl who’s upset about moving to San Francisco. As she tries to adjust to new surroundings, challenges at school, changes to her environment and pressures on her parents, her emotions naturally go into overdrive. She simply doesn’t understand why her world needed to change. And, rather than just watch what happens, Pixar gives us front-row seats on Hollywood’s first thrill ride through the complex collection of feelings we call emotions.

According to our Pixar tour guides, the mind is home to all types of conflicting emotions. Yes, we feel joy, at the same times that we may experience sadness, disgust, anger and fear, too. To keep all these emotions in balance, internal control rooms try to manage how various emotions compete with each other for control over thoughts, actions and words. Sometimes the emotions work in harmony, other times in conflict. And, when we sleep, beware who’s on duty. Those wake-me-in-the-middle-of-the-night dreams can be intense.

With the visual innovation that Pixar brought to “Toy Story,” “Wall E” and “Finding Nemo,” “Inside Out” creates a most visually exciting journey. The trek the emotions make through the mind dazzles with creative details. What makes the film so special, however, is its insightful commentary into how emotions may work. As exaggerated as the narrative may sound, the story advances a point of view of how complex people may be. Every day, our emotions create the highs and lows we experience. And “Inside Out” helps us learn a bit more about how the dots connect.

As with any animated film, “Inside Out” must balance what will appeal across the ages. While all family members will savor the animation — especially the sequences inside the control room and the mind — some may focus on the thought provoking ideas about how we react, what we can control and how we try to keep our emotions in check. The vocal performances — especially from Amy Poehler (as Joy) and Phyllis Smith (as Sadness) — radiate with emotion. Poeller, in fact, delivers a broader emotional range in this performance than her work on television permits.

“Inside Out” is a visual masterpiece that pushes the boundaries of animation and much more. In addition to giving us a something to look at, the film offers plenty to think about, too. After all, with all these emotions floating around, it’s quite a job to stay in control.

“Inside Out” is rated PG for “mild thematic elements and some action.” The film runs 94 minutes and can be streamed online.

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