14 years later, sequel delivers a delight

From its earliest days, Pixar has been responsible for creating some of the most original (yet somehow timeless) stories we've ever seen in the world of animation.

The attention to quality is still generally there for Pixar. The studio's track record is so impeccable that the occasional missteps are more notable than when it releases another must-see.

But it's impossible to ignore just how much the studio is being sucked into the risk-averse world of sequels of late. Next year will see the release of “Toy Story 4,” a series that has been nothing but a joy, but landed on such a good ending note with its third installment.

So I brought a little cynicism with me to “Incredibles 2,” a sequel coming a full 14 years after the original tale of a family of superheroes that balanced crime fighting and domestic life.

I left all that cynicism in the theater. “Incredibles 2” is an absolute delight.

The family that fights crime together stays together. And they're all here again, but with some twists. Elastigirl/Helen (voiced by Holly Hunter) has been tapped to be the new face of the superhero movement as it looks to improve public opinion.

This reverses the role for Bob (aka Mr. Incredible, Craig T. Nelson), who becomes a stay-at-home superdad — an especially challenging task, as baby Jack Jack is continuing to discover his superpowers.

Siblings Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) are also anxious to exhibit their own superpower prowess, and of course the opportunity arrives in a nefarious mind-control plot.

Any fears I had that “Incredibles 2” might disappoint should have gone away once I saw Brad Bird's name. He's had a few missteps as a live-action director, but his track record in animation? He's responsible for “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.” It's hard to find a flaw there.

Bird keeps “Incredibles 2” humming along at a great pace, alternating between some really fun and thrilling action sequences, a warm-hearted and relatable family story, and abundant laughs.

One knock is not really Pixar's fault: In the 14 years since the first “Incredibles,” it seems like every third movie has been a superhero movie. We've seen the more human side, but the exploration of reversed traditional gender roles — especially in an animated world that feels like a stylized take on the “Mad Men” era — is a worthwhile twist.

The voice cast is superb, with assistance from Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener. The visuals are the latest and greatest from the best animation studio around. Even the two-ish hour running time never feels overlong, even for antsy kids.

I want the studio to move away from all the sequels, but I also hope Pixar never forgets how it got here.