14 years after 2004’s hit “The Incredibles,” the superhero family is back in a delightful sequel in which Helen is recruited as part of an effort to restore the reputation of superheroes, while a (mostly) supportive Bob stays home with the kids. Rating: 4 stars out of 4.
OK, I’m going to call it right now: Quite possibly, this year’s best cinematic action sequence involves an animated superhero baby and a very surprised raccoon. Midway through Pixar’s delightful “Incredibles 2,” wee Jack-Jack, who is just discovering his superpowers, picks a fight with a critter on the patio. It’s a classic, zinging cartoon tussle, punctuated with powdery baby laughter and some unexpected transformations. The winner? Don’t bet on the raccoon.
The Parr family — mom Helen/Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter), dad Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), and kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack — is back, 14 years after 2004’s hit “The Incredibles,” and the new film is more of the same, which is to say that it’s terrific. This time around, Helen is recruited as part of a corporate effort to restore the reputation of superheroes, while a (mostly) supportive Bob stays home with the kids, dealing with math homework, teenage sulks, and the baby’s fledgling superpowers. If you’ve ever found it difficult to take care of a toddler, lend some sympathy to the Parr family: This tot can burst into flames, clone himself at will, walk through walls and catapult himself into other dimensions, all while still requiring regular diaper changes.
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Written and directed by Brad Bird, who also voices superhero fashion designer Edna Mode, “Incredibles 2” is set in a vaguely retro universe (think “The Jetsons” meets “Mad Men” meets, well, “The Incredibles”), filled with the sort of detail that reminds us why we love Pixar. Jack-Jack’s bedtime story is a faux Dr. Seuss book that’s even Seuss-ier than its inspiration; Bob’s belongings include a jar that holds, according to its label, “bullets that bounced off my chest”; and an assortment of new superheroes met by the family includes an aging, froglike fellow named Reflux, whose special power is that he can vomit fire. (Ouch.)
But while it’s great fun to watch the Incredibles/Parrs zipping around saving the world (with help from their preternaturally cool pal Lucius/Frozone, voiced with gusto by Samuel L. Jackson), “Incredibles 2” gets its heart by being a sweet family story. Though Violet’s in the midst of teenage growing pains (“Is she having adolescence?” Dash asks, after an outburst), and neither of the older kids appreciate being the one stuck with taking care of the baby — he’s passed around like a hot potato — the Parrs all have each other’s supersuit-clad backs. Fighting crime as a family is what they do, because it’s the right thing to do. Here’s hoping they’re back again soon; I can’t wait to meet Jack-Jack’s unlucky preschool teacher.
Screening in theaters before “Incredibles 2” is another Pixar treat: the enchanting short film “Bao,” directed by Domee Shi, about a Chinese-Canadian immigrant family and a very unusual dumpling. Don’t be surprised to find yourself weeping into your popcorn; this film, like “Up” and so many others, tells a story all of us will recognize — in the language of the heart.
★★★★ “Incredibles 2,” with the voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Bird, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener. Written and directed by Brad Bird. 118 minutes. Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language. Multiple theaters.