Incredibles 2 (2018)

“We have to adapt.”

As joyfully thoughtful and stubbornly uncooperative as it is earnestly political, the innocent Incredibles 2 is the kind of family film that serves up so much laughter and drama for viewers of all ages that it almost becomes innocuous from its own fleeting brilliance. The film has a lot to say, and it preaches to us through the power of its family focused story and its gorgeous animation, but amidst all of the hilarity and charity is a missing link between the two sides. Incredibles 2 has some tremendous, unforgettable moments which comprise a film that’s very good but a little too faceless at the same time.

14 years is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one with so many strong moments and a trajectory so expected that the twists become stale and unsurprising and unavoidable. What a promising start this film has, though. Supers are illegal and the Parr family – the five person squad of superheroes – are forced to refrain from using their powers. Still, they suit up and get involved with a big bank heist. Buildings are destroyed and the bad guy gets away. The choice to open the picture this way is particularly brilliant; it thrillingly and hilariously forces the main characters into a predicament where a choice must be made. It’s a big shot to the ego of Bob (Craig T. Nelson), resigning to the fact he has to get a regular day job. The kids Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) all must pretend to be regular kids. But Helen (Holly Hunter) is approached by businessman Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) – a man with a depressing origin story similar to most superheroes – and is asked to continue on as Elastigirl, all expenses paid. Back into the spandex she goes.

Brad Bird has directed and written Incredibles 2 as a film chock-full of meaningful social commentary that doesn’t necessarily gel together as a single story. It goes from James Bond territory to the TV landscape a la Married With Children and ends as a film noir inspired conspiracy thriller. The broad choice is bold, especially for a film that’s flatly targeted at kids but still capable of undeniably resonating with adults across the board, and yet so much of what’s meant to excite instead becomes the concrete plinth supporting a vase full of fake flowers. Pixar used to regularly make movies like Incredibles 2; films that mean something and convey their messages through action and subtlety and laughter, and they did so without bashing us over the heads. Incredibles 2 is, well, incredible when compared to most animated films. You should see it. But it’s far from the upper-echelon of the more nuanced Pixar greats. Those like Wall-E and Toy Story and Inside Out. I say that as a compliment to the studio and a slight critique of the film itself.

What holds the film back is its poorly drawn antagonist. The film harps on and on about addiction to electronic screens – a strange thing to be lectured about through the very same medium it happens to be condemning – and it manifests this thought through a character who never really matters to the story until it’s conveniently forced to act accordingly. Incredibles 2 might not have been worth the laborious wait that so many sat through, but it looks absolutely stunning, and when it’s sticking to what it does best – clean comedy, thrilling action, and the gender-bending of socioeconomic roles – the film earns the distinction as one of the few successful sequels in the animated realm.

“Help make all supers legal again.”

Rating: 4 out of 5

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