WASHINGTON. Incredibles 2, the latest hit Pixar summer feature from Disney, continues to rack up incredible box office numbers. As of July 29, the animated superhero flick – 14 long years in the making – had already pulled in an incredible domestic box office gross of $572,648,000.
As of mid-August, adding the international box office receipts to the still modestly increasing U.S. gross of $594,119,848, the total world gross for the film has now topped over $1 billion according to Box Office Mojo.
Incredibly (pun intended), the film is still playing in many theaters across the country. That’s a full 2 months after its opening weekend. It’s an affirmation of the film’s, and the franchise’s, strong and ongoing appeal. DVDs and streaming service revenues will be icing on the Disney cake. It’s the ultimate in cinematic summer family fun.
Why the Incredibles 2 box office receipts are such an Incredible surprise
As we noted, the most unusual aspect of this sequel is that it arrived fully 14 years after the smash hit original.
Normally, such alengthy interval of time between an original film and its sequel dooms the sequel to failure. That’s because those who enjoyed the original have filed the experience in the catacombs of their minds. There, it often ends up forgotten. By the time such a “long-awaited” sequel shows up, most of its original fans have moved on.
But online box-office nerds claim that those now 20-something Incredibles fans still remember. They remember the excitement, the humor and the sheer moxie of the original film. That path-breaking 2004 installment offered a superhero spoof that was funny, exciting, and family values oriented. Those who were kids at the time still remember this film fondly.
Incredibles 2 continues with the first film’s subtle political satire
The original Incredibles proved slyly, refreshingly satirical. But it accomplished this feat in a way that put the film at odds with this century’s zealous PC elites. Yes, both films contain brief but telling thematic digs at the repression that arises from an overabundance of political correctness. The only way this franchise continues to get away with this is the abundant good nature of these jabs. Kudos to the scriptwriters and script doctors for their wit skill and integrity.
Happily for the counterculture deplorables among us, the franchise’s slightly right-of-center satirical motifs survive. But in Incredibles 2, they do so in a most unexpected way. The Parr girls – mom Helen (aka, Elastagirl) and troublesome teen daughter Violet (who can create force fields and become invisible at will) – take center stage in the sequel, bumping the boys to the back of the bus. But they do so in a neatly and strangely logical way that’s somehow free of feminist, anti-patriarchal cant.
Incredibles 2 somehow gets away with not only its politics but its twist on current feminist thought. This stands as a very real tribute to the film’s script writer, Brad Bird. In this film, he seasons the Parr’s family values with just the right dash of equal time for the ladies. Today”s audiences are perfectly okay with this even in the current viciously polarized political climate.
All things in moderation
The script of Incredibles 2 is an absolute masterpiece of moderation, even with its almost invisible hat tip to good, old-fashioned American family values. That would seem to prove, at least anecdotally, that there’s no reason we all can’t just get along. Provided, that is, that the government and those bloviating politicians (as we see them in both films) simply get out of our way.
Incredibles 1 and Incredibles 2 seem to say that leaving us and our super friends to our own all-American neighborhood and family values is the right way for us all to dump the hate and move along to face and embrace new challenges together.
Yeah, it’s in there. Really. But again, the political winks are well hidden and good-natured as they should be in a film geared toward enlightened family entertainment. Today’s in-your-face politics properly take a back seat to what drives this animated flick ahead toward its expected, chaotic, very super-hero conclusion: It’s intriguing and timely central plot.
An Incredible plot: The game is afoot
Similar to the original film’s plot, Incredibles 2 finds our favorite superhero family sidelined once again. The government (or the Deep State if you like) has reiterated its ban on superheroes again, and they’ve moved the Incredible family to another suburb, once again under some variation of their witness protection program.
As we learn in the new film’s frantic opening scene, the Incredibles are back in superhero action again. This time, they save their city from yet another evil and highly destructive supervillain. In the process, however, an expensive chunk of the city gets destroyed. Guess who gets blamed for it.
Right again. The virtue-signaling politicians once again save mankind by sidelining those out-of-control superheroes. Oh, well. That’s gratitude for you in the 21stcentury. That poor villain was probably an aggrieved “victim.”
Broke and un- or under-employed, the family is at loose ends. But, in the knick of time, an offer comes through that might rescue the family’s finances. The offer comes, courtesy of a rich and (perhaps) well-intentioned entrepreneur named Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk). Teaming with him is his brainy but somewhat dodgy sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener).
What Winston and Evelyn want
The Deavor sibs want the supers to return to action. But they’re smart enough to figure out that what the supers really need is great PR. That’s something that the supers have never quite figured out. So they’re willing to gin up a great but somewhat risky game in which one of the supers can nab a criminal and/or stop criminal activities from unfolding.
All the action will get covered with guaranteed photo and video coverage and positive media flack touting the end of each criminal career. Appearing as headline news stories (via willing press and media hacks), these furtive superhero activities – and their positive endings – are designed to create a groundswell of positive PR that will eventually convince America’s voters to demand a return of their superheroes.
Elastagirl vs. Mr. Mom?
On problem with this, however. The entrepreneurs want Helen to star in the show, not Bob. No actual sexism underpins this idea. The Deavors simply fact the fact that a brave, fearless and successful female superhero is today more likely to convince voters and politicians of the fairer sex to support an end to the ban on superheroes.
This is a brilliantly logical setup, the veracity of which is undeniable in 2018, particularly if you’re an avid fan of 21stcentury American TV. Every TV police chief is now female, every detective or cop team always has one, if not two women taking lead, all CEOs are women. It goes on. Women are promoted by the entertainment and political industries alike. Men are, like, so yesterday.
Facing that current reality, Helen (Holly Hunter, returning to her role in the original) gets the superhero plot nod. And Bob (Craig T. Nelson, in another role reprise) gets to stay home and mind the kids as the first Mr. Mom in the quirky Pixar world. For guys, this turn of events is an irritating reminder of how things often are in today’s work world. But no matter. It works for the ladies and that’s who’s being marketed.
The Incredible fiery emergence of Jack-Jack
So current reality is what makes this otherwise clichéd plot twist go down without need of a spoonful of sugar. The main plot threads proceeds briskly from this point, alternating Helen’s exciting adventures with the typical trials and tribulations of a well-meaning husband and dad.
Typical? No, that’s wrong. Aside from dealing with Violet’s (Sarah Vowell’s) teenage angst – we know Bob already interfered with her budding love life – dad, aka Mr. Mom, must also deal with his typically overactive son Dash (now played by a new, young actor with the amusing real-life name of Huckleberry Miller) as they focus on the wonderful world of grade school math.
But the surprise – which is known to fans of the first Incredibles flick but not to Bob, Helen, or the other two kids – happens to be baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile, plus Nicholas Bird voicing Jack-Jack’s monster form).
The ultimate temper tantrum
We saw Baby Parr’s crazy superpowers erupt near the conclusion of the first film when he is kidnapped by that film’s villain. Flying high in the air, (and out of sight of the family) his baby rage bursts forth, transforming him into a human torch. This terrifying transformation ultimately leads to the destruction and/or departure of Jack-Jack’s evil but now freaked-out captor.
Under Bob’s care, Jack-Jack develops into the typical, easily irritated toddler. He changes size, erupts into flames and cause random chaos when, for example, he’s refused another cookie. That complicates Bob’s Mr. Mom act considerably, since you never know what’s going to torque off Jack-Jack next. Seriously, you think your kid has temper tantrums. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet until you’ve seen Jack-Jack’s.
The youngest Parr kid is unrestrained, temper tantrum id. His behavior when pissed becomes genuinely alarming. This transforms him into the main wild card in this film. No one, including mom and dad, have no clue what Jack-Jack might morph into the next time he becomes frightened or cannot obtain what he wants. Now.
Elastagirl stalks a cybercriminal
The transformation of Jack-Jack provides a hilarious and novel complication. It turns the Mr. Mom subplot in an unexpected direction, even as Helen brilliantly executes her superhero acts of derring-do outside the newly updated family home.
Of course, the plotline for heroic Helen / Elastagirl soon becomes complicated. An increasingly unreliable Evelyn Deavor eventually demonstrates her true colors. But only after the rest of the super family joins up with Elastagirl. Their ultimate challenge turns out to be a new and dangerous cybervillain, once again linking this film to a key tech issue for 2018 and beyond.
No point in providing more of the story line at this point, lest we irritate readers that haven’t yet seen this wonderful film.
So what we end up with in Incredibles 2 is a pretty exciting and often mysterious two-thread plot – Mr. Mom’s misadventures on one hand, and Elastagirl’s amazingly successful crime-fighting / PR abilities on the other. Yet both story arcs unite into one strong story line, spiced with that unpredictable, infantile wild card, Jack-Jack.
Incredible family values
In short, Incredibles 2 is great entertainment for all ages. There’s something in there for everyone, including those little, snarky political bits that score hits, but, miraculously, do not offend even the legion of the easily offended.
But best of all, here’s a cartoon feature film that does a lot better than most live action films in telling the story of a chaotic, yet loving and functional traditional nuclear family. We see less and less of such family positivism on TV and or at the movies. Today’s film industry remains pathologically obsessed with bizarre sexual identiry games, constant gender-bending and one-parent family issues among other stories that only inhabit the lunatic fringe.
Yet here we get a nuclear family that’s about as normal as any real family can be, super powered or not. Even in their squabbles, it’s clear that all the members of this family – even Jack-Jack – are close, loving and loyal in the end.
Better yet, the relationship between Mom / Helen and Dad / Bob can come under stress. But both life-partners respect one another and work at all times to straighten out there differences in ways that satisfy both. They provide a fine, if occasionally flawed model for their growing kids. We rarely see this in films or TV series today, not to mention in real life.
Transforming the old, 1950s Disney film tradition by building on it, not trashing it
In this way, Incredibles 2, whether consciously or unconsciously, is an entertaining and highly integrated mind-meld of Pixar craftiness and originality joined at the hip with the kind of happy families Disney philosophy we used to experience in the 1950s.
By carrying Disney, family and American traditions forward yet adapting them to a new century, Incredibles 2 not only retains continuity with its predecessor. It becomes a completely new film in its own right. Like the old tree in Aesop’s fables, bends with the winds of real — and fake — social change. This it to live on and prosper rather than break or find itself uprooted.
In short, Incredibles 2 is a real winner in any number of ways. Whether critics think it’s an unoriginal rehash or not is their problem, not ours. A $1 Billion plus world box office offers proof that real family entertainment remains very much in demand. Particularly in a world that obsesses on partisan politics and neglects the very real human rewards of living a life with moral principles but without the boundaries set by others.
Rating: **** (Highly recommended)
Headline image:Incredibles 2 PR shot, Disney-Pixar Studios. Used in conjunction with review of the film.