Movie Review: Incredibles 2
Rating: 2 and 1/2 Stars
Sequels are always at a disadvantage from the get-go. The imagination required to build the world and shape the characters in the predecessor has been conjured and expunged. The introductory magic that films like Shrek, Toy Story, and The Incredibles delivered in their debuts is lightning in a bottle that rarely strikes twice. Shrek 2 and Toy Story 2 were great movies in their own right, but they had to go to great creative lengths to refreshen the plot, the characters, and the world the movie exists in.
So how did Incredibles 2 hold up? For scale, I’d say it’s closer to Shrek 2 than Cars 2 in the quality department. Incredibles 2 was a patient 14-year wait to see the superhero family’s next adventure, but the directorial execution is rather straight up than outside the box. The first Incredibles was a master class in a fish out of water meets paradoxical comedy combined with a lovable superhero family and breathtaking animation.
I’d be curious to know if writer and director Brad Bird, among the Disney staff and production team, thought they had a profound message to get across. There are obvious overtones of gender bias in the workplace. There’s also a heavy dose of the gender roles in parenting. I wouldn’t say the messages Bird and Disney are delivering are profound, but they are heard and respected.
I’d like to think we live in a world where men are accepting of women’s ability to perform just as well as themselves in the workplace. Mr. Incredible’s bravado gets the best of him while Elastigirl is called upon to have her moment in the spotlight. If the goal was to preach women empowerment, Bird and Disney only took stabs at the surface without digging deeper into the meaningful material.
Bird did nail the reverse aspect, the husband’s struggle to parent without the support of the resourceful wife.
Parenting is hard. Bird got this message across through the mix of comedy and character growth that leads to a tender moment.
I found the action sequences to be pulse pounding. It’s not that these scenes were anything out of the ordinary superhero cliche. There was a heavy reliance on: stop large transportation object from crashing into buildings and leveling a fictional city. Despite the fact it’s an exhausted trope, it never gets tiring. It’s not about knowing the superheroes are going to stop the vehicle in the nick of time, I demand it of them, and they always deliver in spectacular fashion.
The plot is hilariously predictable for the adult viewer, and possibly for an attentive savvy pre-teen. The stale predictability isn’t a major letdown, but I do think Bird misses connecting the story to the values he’s trying to get across in the rest of the film. The disconnection from the plot to the film’s central message is the film’s biggest detraction.
The biggest plus point for Incredibles 2 is Bird’s crisp scriptwriting. The Parr family conveys their feelings and emotions clearly and concisely. The Parr family talks like real people rather than the DC and Marvel superheroes they are partially satirizing. Incredibles 2 is more punchy in its dialogue, sitcom style. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the constant regality and noble-speak of say your Avengers or Justice League.
Carried over from the first Incredibles is the old X-Men discussion of whether superheroes should be supported or deemed illegal. At least for the Parr family, they’re referred to as supers and not mutants.
If you can look past the hiccups, the Incredibles 2 stays engaged and gleeful throughout. The baby of the Parr family, Jack-Jack, is the unabashed star of the film. Jack-Jack has a multitude of powers and uses them at will, much to Mr. Incredible’s chagrin.
I could be harsh on Pixar for valuing Incredibles 2 at a meandering 2 and 1/2 stars. Pixar has set the highest bar for animated features and provocative storytelling. More than anything, the diagnosis for Incredibles 2 is sequelitis. It’s a fine family film and suitable for any kid’s enjoyment. I wouldn’t be surprised if Incredibles 2 is lost in the shuffle of Pixar lore along with Monsters University, Finding Dory, and Brave.