The longest gap between the release of a feature film and its sequel is over 63 years (Bambi and Bambi 2). This puts the gap between the two instalments of The Incredibles of 14 years into context. Yet this has certainly been an agonising wait for fans (which I count myself part of), particularly when you consider that we have had to endure three Cars films, as well as two Cars spin-offs, in that time. The return of the Parr family is something to get excited about.
Directed by the animation genius Brad Bird, Incredibles 2 successfully taps back into the world built during The Incredibles, picking up where audiences were left over a decade previously. After the Parr family (in a particularly thrilling sequence) take on the Underminer, they find themselves slapped on the wrist by the police and, once again, rejected by the society they seek to help. It is at this point that a brother and sister duo, The Deavors, come forward and offer to help rehabilitate superheroes. Their plan is to put Elastigirl back into the field and make her front and centre of the campaign. This means that this time Bob (Mr Incredible) is staying at home to look after their three children.
It is this switch that gifts the film a plotline that particularly stands out. It successfully mashes together the slapstick comedic simplicity of Jack-Jack and his powers, with the fascinatingly authentic representation of the challenges faced by a stay-at-home dad. This is one of the most interesting and realistic explorations of modern fatherhood I've seen in a while, examining how it plays out in relation to masculinity. And just when things seem to be getting too weighty, particularly as Violet has to go through a somewhat painful lesson in the consequences of being a superhero, the film will throw in another hilarious, film-stealing moment with Jack-Jack.
Where the film falls down is in the heroic duties of Elastigirl. While these scenes are stirring action sequences, better then a great number of recent live-action examples, there just isn't the time to build up the mystery around the villain she is fighting, nor the room needed to give it the depth that Syndrome had in The Incredibles. It is a shame that this is the weaker of the two plotlines as this means the film becomes noticeably less engaging as it moves to its climax and away from the familial home. This is the element that prevents the film from reaching the dizzying heights of the first film.
The voice cast are exemplary, particularly Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter as Bob and Helen Parr. There are returning characters, such as Frozone and Edna Mode, that are likely to have fans of the series beaming with joy (I certainly was). The score, again courtesy of the magnificent Michael Giacchino, is its own character, helping to give the film its distinctive, retro sci-fi vibe.
If Incredibles 2 can't quite match The Incredibles that isn't to diminish the film that it is. For much of its running time, it is a fast-paced, blissfully enjoyable romp that gains an air of relevance with its reversal of roles for its central characters. And with the scene-stealing antics of Jack-Jack in full flow, you will certainly leave this film praying that the time between the second and third film will not be as long.