UK Release Date: 13th July 2018
Runtime: 125 minutes
Director: Brad Bird
Writer: Brad Bird
Starring: Holly Hunter, Craig T Nelson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Samuel L Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Brad Bird
Synopsis: The super-family from the first movie are approached by a businessman looking to bring heroes back to legality, with Elastigirl as the PR face of the campaign.
A lot has happened in the world of superhero movies since the initial release of The Incredibles way back in 2004. The genre has gone from being a rather under-appreciated cog in the blockbuster machine to being the entire machine, with the combined might of Marvel/Disney, DC/Warner Bros and Marvel/Fox pumping out at least half a dozen super-powered mega movies every year. With that in mind, it seems like a good time to bring Pixar’s superhero family back to the screen, with original writer-director Brad Bird once again at the helm. The result is a film that consistently entertains, but feels like a rather minor footnote in the current superhero landscape.
The story picks up immediately after the first film ended, which is a luxury that can only be afforded to animated movies unencumbered by their actors ageing. The fight against the Underminer leads to outright carnage, for which the superheroes are blamed, forcing Bob ‘Mr Incredible’ Parr (Craig T Nelson) and his wife Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) back into hiding with their kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and infant Jack-Jack. They are soon approached by brother and sister business duo Winston (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), who are big superhero fans and want to use their massive telecoms company to rehabilitate them. Elastigirl is picked as the public face of the campaign, leaving a disgruntled Bob at home with the kids.
That’s a pretty decent set of ideas to hang the opening act of a blockbuster on, and all of that stuff was dutifully included in the trailer for Incredibles 2. Unfortunately, that’s just about everything Bird has in his locker. Once that stuff has been summarily dispensed with, what’s left is a bland superhero narrative powered by a villain, in the Screenslaver (describing people as “passive, ravenous consumers”), who seems far more compatible with a movie set today, rather than one that we are led to believe is taking place in the 1960s. It’s a half-idea at most, not one that should power the final act of one of the most hotly anticipated sequels of the last decade.
With that said, Incredibles 2 has a lot in its favour from the original movie. At the centre of it all is the very likeable voice cast, anchored by Craig T Nelson and Holly Hunter as the Parr parents. Their relationship is loving but spiky, with the two of them clearly positioned on opposite sides of the superhero debate, in a similar way to the Marvel heroes in Captain America: Civil War. Helen is the Tony Stark figure, advising adherence to the laws imposed upon heroes, while Bob is Steve Rogers, unable to sit back and let the system dictate how he should help people.
The best scenes of Incredibles 2 focus on this tension, particularly as Elastigirl is rather hypocritically thrown into the fray when the Deavor siblings turn up. When she tells her family that “the world is what it is, we heva to adapt”, it feels like a statement she eventually rolls back on in a fashion that fuels her husband’s dissatisfaction. There’s not enough of this material in Incredibles 2, but the dinner table conversations in which the family argue and debate are the highlight from a narrative and thematic level. When the generic action and over-stuffed visuals take over in the third act, it’s sad to recall how interesting the early stages are.
However, the movie is first and foremost a comedy and it’s in this arena that the film excels. Incredibles 2 is a funnier film than its predecessor and much of this is down to the terrific sequences involving the infant Jack-Jack, whose burgeoning powers are literally and figuratively exploding out of him. The scenes involving Jack-Jack and his powers unfold as exquisite silent comedy, including one scuffle with an opportunistic raccoon that is a joyous moment of sunshine in a movie that never otherwise seems sure of its identity. This is particularly an issue with the cameo handed to Bird himself as fashionista Edna Mode, who appears solely because she was popular last time around, rather than for any story reason.
Incredibles 2 sits in a very funny position within the superhero canon. It’s a relic of the past, serving as a sequel to a movie made before the current superhero boom and seemingly unaware that it has happened in the subsequent years. Without any sense of commentary about the cultural dominance of superheroes today, it feels like a wasted opportunity that is going to get lost in the crowd of this year’s bigger comic book releases. As the villainous Syndrome said in the first movie, “when everyone is super, no one will be”.
Pop or Poop?
Incredibles 2 is a perfectly decent sequel to the very warmly remembered original movie, but those expectations mean that the end result is ultimately a disappointment. It’s a fun comedy film, helped by the brilliant use of Jack-Jack, and one that has some interesting ideas to extend the themes of its predecessor.
However, the actual super-plot is badly underbaked and, by the time the third act comes along, the movie disappears into a world of over-cranked action that results in an overlong mess of a story – albeit one that’s still enjoyable thanks to its great characters and eye for comedy.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.