INCREDIBLES 2**** Simply…incredible


JOYOUS. HYSTERICAL. BRILLIANTLY well written. Gloriously well directed. The real world sharply observed. All that from a cartoon. It’s the incredible Incredibles 2, a movie about superheroes with more real world insights that most other movies and definitely more than any other superhero movie. Ever.

The action starts pretty much where the last one (waaay back in 2004) ended. Like the X Men, the superheroes have been outlawed. And even though they’re just thwarted the nasty Underminer, it’s not because they’re a danger to society or even because they’re different. The problem, as pointed out by the sharp suited, sweet talking Winston Deavour (Bob Odenkirk), is that they don’t offer a compelling enough narrative to woo and win the hearts of people (and lawmakers). It’s not a failure of substance, it’s simply a failure of PR.

Which pretty much sums up our world.

So, for a user-friendly, appealing icon of superhero repositioning, PR guru Winston focuses on the sympathetic, sexy mom, Mrs. Incredible aka Elastigirl, aka Helen Parr (Holly Hunter).

This is much to the chagrin of Mr. Incredible, Bob (Craig T Nelson), her newly downgraded – to babysitter in chief – husband. After a few PR friendly battles, in full throttle with her version of the Batmobile, Helen must take on a far more malevolent foe, Screenslaver. This villain has hacked into the screens and brains of others to create a fake, if believably false narrative…all intending to subvert the truth and doom the heroes.

And in other news of Brexit…

The real battle though is at home where dad must deal with his bruised ego, his daughter’s puppy love agonies, his son’s maths test and the gob-smacking explosion of baby Jack Jack’s emerging and unchecked superpowers. JJ can not only teleport through dimensions, but has machine gun laser beam eyes, can multiply herself and turns into a ferocious flaming demon when angered (mainly thru lack of cookies).

Mom doesn’t think dad can do it without her (typical!). But he does (typical dad superheroism!)

This wild, exuberant romp, amped up by Michael Giacchino’s Bond-esque score, is peopled with the people we all recognize: the gawky, gushing teenage fan, Voyd (who can also bounce people through portals in space), the haughty designer diva, Edna (turned babysitter), the emasculated superman, the petulant daughter etc. And it whooshes by a smorgasbord of hot off the news themes: female empowerment, the power of branding, unemployment, political lobbying, opinion manipulation the rule and misrule of the law. For starters.

This is a kids’ movie?

Holly Hunter (such a distinctive voice) heads up a strong cast of characters (including Catherine Keener, Isabella Rossellini and Samuel. L. Jackson). And is only outshone by Sophia Bush (Mainly Chicago Fire and Chicago PD) as the blushing, self-conscious, shy, gawky teenager, Voyd. In her, Pixar’s fabulous cartoonists’ skills, spearheaded by Art Director Josh Holtsclaw (Cars 3) and Production Designer Ralph Eggleston (Inside Out, Wall-E) simply take your breath away…all under the superb conductor’s baton of director/writer Brad Bird. Mr. Bird (who is also the voice of the fashion diva Edna) helmed the last decent MI outing (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) as well as the original Incredibles.

I say Oscars all round

 

INCREDIBLES 2. Dir. and writer: Brad Bird. With: Craig T Nelson (Gold, Book Club), Holly Hunter (Top of the Lake, Saving Grace), Catherine Keener (Sicarion2: Soldado), Bob Odenkirk (The Post), Samuel L Jackson, Sophia Bush. Cinematographer: Mahyar Abousaeedi (The Good Dinosaur). Composer: Michael Giacchino (Jurassic Word; Fallen Kingdom). Production Designer: Ralph Eggleston (Finding Nemo). Art Director: Josh Holtsclaw (Cars 3)

 

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THE BIG SICK*** Charming


THE BIG SICK is a radical departure from the typical rom-com format. It’s actually smart. It feels honest, is often quite funny and the man isn’t depicted as a man-boy asshole. It’s based on the true story of a struggling Chicago stand up comic (Kimail Nanjiani as himself), whose day time job is driving a taxi, who falls in love with a heckler, Emily, (Zoe Kazan) at one of his shows. There are two complications. Firstly he’s Pakistani from a very traditional family (just a shade away from cliche), intent on arranging his marriage (to a nice Muslim Pakistani girl). And secondly, having whimped out and chosen tradition over love…parents over passion, his (now ex) girlfriend, Emily, succumbs to a life threatening illness resulting in a medically induced coma.

The arc of the story follows Nanjain’s initially forced, and eventually easy intimacy with her fraught and squabbling parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) as she lies in life support in a hospital; and his emergence from a life of hypocritical, dishonest duty – both to his parents (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) and to a dull imitative comedy style – to one of honesty and self assertion (while just about managing to avoid degenerating into a clichéd tale where “honesty is the best policy”)

There’s a vaguely sketched idea about the mutual distrust that exists between people of different cultural backgrounds; both sets of patents are small minded and wary of ‘the other’. But Kimail’s authorial voice is never cynical or patronizing. The result is a gentle, genial (if not laugh out loud) humor.

Kimail, I guess following the Woody Allen example, plays himself in the movie…which certainly gives his character a feeling of idiosyncratic ‘realness’. But he’s (and co-writer Emily Gordon) are better writers than he is an actor. His is bland dead pan style probably works well in stand up, but in this dramatic context, it kills a good many of his really funny lines. Zoe Kazan on the other hand is a bubbly, engaging presence and a great counterpoint to Nanjain’s low keyed style.

It’ll be interesting to see where Nanjain goes next. Because the story is so autobiographical, the danger is that he’ll follow the route of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and churn out “The Bigger Sick”. Or, we can but hope, he’ll segue into a writer who, despite the backing of Judd Apatow, can turn his funny observing eye into something that resembles fresh, intelligent, not (the typical) dumbed down frat house American humor.

 

THE BIG SICK, Dir: Michael Showalter (“Hello, My Name is Doris”). Writers: Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. With: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan (“Our Brand is Crisis”, “In Your Eyes”), Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher(“Silver Linings Playbook”. Cinematographer: Brian Burgoyne (manly TV series and sit coms)