Bro-Reviews: Incredibles 2

Not so incredible.

It’s been nearly a decade and a half since the release of “The Incredibles”, one of Pixar’s top films according to most. While some may argue the film told the story it wanted to tell and wrapped it up nicely, many craved for a sequel. It didn’t help that other Pixar films also got overdue sequels in the meantime, such as “Monsters University”, the prequel to “Monster’s Inc.”, “Finding Dory”, the sequel to “Finding Nemo”, and “Toy Story 3”, the third film in the beloved franchise and the one that started it all for Pixar. Brad Bird, the director of the first “Incredibles”, heard the fans’ cries for a sequel, and over a decade later, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Dash, Violet, Jack Jack, Edna Mode, and Frozone have all found their super suits for one last shot at superhero glory in “Incredibles 2.”

“Incredibles 2” picks up right where the first film ended, with the Parrs/ Incredibles doing battle with “The Underminer”. After a lengthy battle that causes damage to the city, the Parrs/ Incredibles and all other Supers are forced to adhere to their secret identities due to the authority’s concern over the level of damage caused. However, Bob/ Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), Helen/ Elastigirl (voiced by Helen Hunt), and Lucius Best/ Frozone (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) are approached by Wisnton Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk), the owner of telecommunications company and super hero fanatic who wants to bring supers back into the spotlight under a positive image. With Deavor suggesting Elastigirl should be the first to test his strategy and fight crime, Bob finds himself struggling with the day to day duties of being a father to his daughter Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), his son Dash (voiced by Huck Milner), and infant son Jack Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile), all the while a new nemesis arises, “The Screenslaver”.

At this point, there is very little in the way of slowing down the Pixar machine. Pixar’s animation continues to be the envy of all animation studios, as “Incredibles 2” features their trademark crisp, clear, and colorful animation. One of the more impressive feats in the animation in this film is just how busy and action packed it all is. For a studio that has built its reputation on family friendly vehicles, one could mistake “Incredibles 2” for an animated version of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” property, as it’s definitely the most violent and action oriented Pixar film to date. This should please most audiences, and it’s worth noting just how high of a bar Pixar has set the animation standard with its latest money printer.

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Helen Hunt, Eli Fucile, and Craig T. Nelson in “Incredibles 2”.

The voice cast does an excellent job once again. Helen Hunt’s southern twang lends itself incredibly well to Elastigirl, as she is a standout in the film. Craig T. Nelson also gets mileage out of playing an exhausted father dealing with the pitfalls of being a stay at home parent, a welcome change from the traditional family roles we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in film. Veteran actors Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener, who voices Deavor’s technologically gifted sister, Evelyn, also do a fine job in their roles as a dynamic brother and sister business duo. Sarah Vowell’s Violet stands out of the Parr’s/ Incredible’s children as an angsty, moody teenager dealing with the perils of adolescence, but Jack Jack does get his due in the film as well.

Unfortunately, despite the near decade and a half wait for the film, “Incredibles 2” comes up disappointingly short. Whereas the first “Incredibles” told the story of a family finally coming together and accepting their differences (*along with a harrowing premonition of how fanatic/ fanboy culture will invade society), “Incredibles 2” feels like a sequel made to cash in, similar to Pixar’s weaker films such as the “Cars” follow-ups. The film definitely has the attitude of “bigger is better”, and while its action sequences are impressive and at first thrilling, they are far too long and lose steam after a while. A subplot involving other, less notable Supers goes nowhere, and the film’s twist is beyond predictable. Other than the film’s gender norms reversal, there isn’t anything that new or inventive here, a disappointingly hallow result considering Pixar’s impressive track record.

While “Incredibles 2” has its moments, the near decade and a half follow up to the first film fails to meet expectations. Despite a great voice cast and expert animation, “Incredibles 2” suffers from the dreaded disease known as “sequelitis”, as the filmmakers have forgone a gripping story in favor of prolonged action sequences that lose your attention they longer they drag on. Despite its titular name, “Incredibles 2” is far from incredible.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars. Pay low matinée price.

“Incredibles 2” stars Craig T. Nelson, Helen Hunt, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Eli Fucile, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, and Brad Bird. It is in theaters now.

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Bro-Reviews: Isle of Dogs

Best in show.

Wes Anderson is in undoubtedly a true auteur by Hollywood standards. His quirky style and attention to visual detail has made him every hipster’s favorite filmmaker, but even mainstream audiences have finally started to catch on to his work. Anderson’s latest project has more mass appeal than all of his previous works thanks to its furry and friendly subject matter, Isle of Dogs, his second foray into the stop motion animation genre.

Isle of Dogs takes place in the not too distant dystopian future in Megasaki City, Japan, where an outbreak of dog flu and other various diseases has infected the dog population. The mayor of Megasaki City, Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura), declares a state of emergency, and banishes all dogs to a nearby trash island, becoming the isle of dogs. However, a little boy named Atari (voiced by Koyu Rankin) flies to the island in the hopes of finding his dog, Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber). Upon reaching the island a pack of dogs consisting of Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston), Rex (voiced by Edward Norton), King (voiced by Bob Balaban), Boss (voiced by Bill Murray), and Duke (voiced by Jeff Goldblum) attempt to help Atari. Meanwhile, a young exchange student from Cincinnati, Ohio named Tracy Walker (voiced by Greta Gerwig) believes she is on the verge of uncovering a political conspiracy as to why the virus is seemingly incurable.

The animation in the film is nothing short of astounding. All of the dogs have their own unique characteristics that makes them who they are, and their scruffy, sickly look truly resembles that of abandoned dogs. The animation also lends itself well to the human characters and their environments, as Megasaki City illuminates Asian culture in ways not even live action films can accomplish. This marks yet another visually stunning entry in Wes Anderson’s career, and even perhaps his best yet.

Anderson’s trademark quirky humor is also ever present in the film. One may not have thought about it beforehand, but the ability for canines to communicate to us through just their looks and reactions fits perfectly with Anderson’s humor. The added fact the dogs can talk and communicate is also an added bonus, as their reactions and thoughts are conveyed in hilarious fashion throughout the film.

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Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, and Koyu Rankin in Isle of Dogs.

As far as the all star voice cast, Bryan Cranston and Edward Norton do a fantastic job as Chief and Rex, providing the film with a veteran presence. Bill Murray also gets his licks in as Boss, a liver spotted mutt for a Japanese baseball team that will have you rolling. Greta Gerwig as the exchange student Tracy Walker and Frances McDormand as an interpreter of the events unfolding also provide humanity and funny commentary to the film, proving the canines aren’t the only ones holding their own. The rest of the voice cast, rounded out by Jeff Goldblum, Liev Schriber, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, and Tilda Swindon also hit their marks and provide even more hilarity to the film.

The story itself is also quite timely considering the current state of of America. The current political happenings revolving around corruption and fear based rationale are explored in the film to tremendous results. The theory of basing political agendas on fear of “the other” or those unlike us is not only relevant, but also cautions us of a slippery slope that could become our reality should we continue our biased and paranoid ways.

Isle of Dogs is a delight. Not only does the film make good on its furry premise, but also provides timely commentary of our current political state. With an all star voice cast that is able to execute the director’s trademark style and humor and near perfect animation, Isle of Dogs is easily one of the year’s best films. Were it performing in the National Dog Show, Isle of Dogs would easily win best in show.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars. Pay full price.

Isle of Dogs stars Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Koyu Rankin, Ken Watanabe, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, and Scarlett Johansson. It is in limited release now, and expands nationwide April 13th.