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‘Incredibles 2’ is fun, but doesn’t pack Pixar’s emotional punch

“The Incredibles,” a Pixar movie about a family of misfit superheroes, was a huge hit, and deservedly so, way back in 2004. But the landscape has changed significantly in the intervening 14 years.

“The Incredibles” premiered before the Marvel Cinematic Universe exploded across the world’s movie screens, before the glut of Iron Mans, and Captain Americas, and Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxies.

And perhaps more significantly, it also premiered before a string of Pixar powerhouses like “Up,” “Toy Story 3,” “Inside Out,” “Finding Dory,” and “Coco.”

The reception to “Incredibles 2” may be somewhat susceptible to superhero fatigue, but since the film’s focus is more on family dynamics than heroic feats, the Marvel specter does not get in the way. Its Pixar heritage may prove to be more problematic though.

So accustomed have we become to recent Pixar films packing an emotional wallop, the fact that “Incredibles 2” does not deliver on that score seems like something of letdown. “The Incredibles” didn’t bring a tear to anyone’s eye either, but that was before we were trained to expect it. That may not be fair to “Incredibles 2,” but Pixar is in some ways a victim of its own success. Nonetheless, this Incredibles sequel is clever, funny, and highly entertaining.

“Incredibles 2” picks up where “The Incredibles” ended, with the Incredibles family in a kind of witness protection program, living a life in denial of their superpowers (which remain illegal.)

A super-rich telecommunications mogul contacts them with a public relations plan to bring them out of the shadows.

“It’s time to make some wrong things right. Help me bring Supers back into the sunlight. We need to change people’s perceptions about superheroes and Elastigirl is our best play.”

“Better than me?”

The fact that the pitch is to spotlight the wife and not the husband sets up a strained family dynamic that runs through the entire film. While Mom/Elastigirl is suddenly out performing acts of heroism, Mr. Incredible finds himself playing Mr. Mom to his moody teenage daughter, his rambunctious son, and the baby Jack-Jack.

He’s not a natural, especially when it comes to homework.

“That’s not the way you’re supposed to do it, Dad. They want us to do it this way.”

“I don’t know that way. Why would they change math? Math is math!”

“It’s OK, Dad.”

As fashion icon Edna Mode tells Mr. Incredible, “Done properly, parenting is an heroic act. Done properly.”

It’s an heroic act this superhero, humorously, has a hard time mastering.

“Incredibles 2” introduces a new villain called Screenslaver who hypnotizes everyone in sight of a screen. It’s a not-so-subtle critique of contemporary society. But the real fun of the movie involves baby Jack-Jack who discovers new and unforeseen powers every day. Without warning, he can breathe fire, teleport to different dimensions, clone himself into multiples, and shoot lasers out of his eyes. (If I’m not mistaken, Mr. Incredible even warns his other kids to not let Jack-Jack “shoot” inside the house.) If there is an “Incredibles 3,” I’d be surprised if Jack-Jack wasn’t its featured star, all in the context of family, of course.

“Incredibles 2” doesn’t have the sparkling freshness of “The Incredibles” nor the emotional power of recent Pixar films, but it still delivers enough humor, action and insight to be fun for the whole family.

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