The Incredibles debuted as the comic book movie genre was exploding into taking over the blockbuster film. Fourteen years later, I would rank only The Dark Knight ahead of it amongst the ranks of superhero films. Writer/Director Brad Bird had refused to make a sequel to The Incredibles, despite the film being more suited to it than many of the other films Pixar has revisited, because he said he wouldn’t until he had the right story. After watching The Incredibles 2, I really wish he’d stuck to his guns because he never found that story. While it’s visually stunning, The Incredibles 2 suffers from a deeply flawed script, troubled pacing and-for a Pixar film-a stunning lack of imagination.
The sequel begins exactly where the first film ended with the family of supers battling The Underminer. It’s not long however before Elastigirl is whisked off to be the banner carrier for superhero rights, and the family remains separated for the majority of the film. Mr. Incredible pulls Mr. Mom duty in this film dealing with role reversal, teenage drama, new math, and his youngest child’s exploding power set. The separation, role-switching idea creates two vastly different films. The Elastigirl storyline is something The Incredibles never was: dull, uninspired, and preachy. While I don’t disagree with any of the roughly 15 points Bird attempts to make with his script, the end result of trying to make 15 different points is that you make none of them well and waste a lot of time doing it.
Man, does this film miss Syndrome. The Screenslaver is a poor substitute for one of superherodom’s best villains. The entire plot line for the villain is pretty shallow and you’ll figure out where it’s going about 40 minutes before the film gets there. One of Brad Bird’s messages in the film is how entertainment has become shiny pabulum designed to distract the masses, which in a not-so-fun ironic way, is exactly how I would describe The Incredibles 2. It’s very possible I’m being overly harsh, but I think the drop in quality between this film and the first is startling.
What’s good about the film? All I can say is thank God for Jack-Jack. The youngest superhero’s abilities were first exhibited at the end of the first film and explored further in an animated short. I honestly think “The Continued Adventures of Jack-Jack” in more shorts would have been a better way to go than trying to squeeze out an entire new feature. Every time JJ is onscreen, whether he be battling raccoons, chasing cookies, or bonding with “Auntie Edna”, he absolutely steals the film. The heart of The Incredibles was always the family. The sequel strays from that to its detriment. Visually, the film is absolutely gorgeous. The Incredibles 2 keeps to the art deco/comic book sensibilities of the first and showcases how far computer animation has come since 2004.
While there are enough entertaining moments in The Incredibles 2 to warrant a viewing, it certainly doesn’t have the play-on-a-loop rewatchability of the first film. Honestly, this has more in common with Monsters University and Cars 3 than The Incredibles. Those films, like this one, made such a slight impression that an hour after I left the theater I would be hard-pressed to tell you much that stuck with me. Given that this was one of my most anticipated films of 2018, that is simply incredi-sad.