Fourteen years have passed since the animated superhero comedy "The Incredibles" burst into theaters. But when fans of the hit Pixar film sit down to the sequel - about a family of suburban crime-fighters who must hide their X-Men-like abilities from a world that has outlawed "supers" - 2004 might feel like only yesterday.
The delightfully restorative "Incredibles 2" picks up where the first film left off, with the arrival of a new villain, the Underminer, who arose from the Earth in a giant tunnel-boring machine.
The first film ended with a knowing glance between the costumed crusader Mr. Incredible (voice of Craig T. Nelson), his wife, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), and their three kids. It also ended with a question: Would they continue to fight those who would undermine truth, justice and the American way, or would they, in their own way, go back underground?
"Incredibles 2" immediately sets about answering that question, in a way that will surprise no one, except to the degree that it incorporates currents in contemporary culture that have developed in the intervening years. The franchise always has been characterized by a kind of timelessness, underscored by a retro-futuristic production design that simultaneously references midcentury modernism, the gadget-rich future and the present. High-tech suits and Batmanesque accessories blend fluidly with antique-looking television sets that broadcast the mid-1960s cartoon adventure series "Jonny Quest."
Somehow these influences all work.
"Incredibles 2" is both pop-culture eye candy and a sly critique of it - albeit one delivered in the form of the bad guy, who rails against the mediation of screens as a poor substitute for unfiltered life experience. I don't need to tell you who wins here, but it's refreshing to see a sequel that can question its own existence, even as it revels in it.