Out of all the sequels Pixar fans have been clamoring for the most, Incredibles 2 easily tops the list. To the fact that superhero movies are even more popular than they were 13 and a half years ago when the original debuted the year of Spider-Man 2, it’s a bit disappointing this film doesn’t have more to say about the genre after all these years, making for a typical Pixar non [Toy] story like sequel. Returning to animation after a live action stint that included the wonderful Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and the massively disappointing Tomorrowland director Brad Bird makes the wise decision of picking up the action immediately where the last film left off. It’s a testament to the memorable nature of the first film how easily I was able to recall plot points that happened ages ago; Violet had asked out a boy named Tony, Jack-Jack the baby has mysterious powers and Dash has trouble in school. So it’s a shame that Incredibles 2, like Finding Dory and Monster’s University before it squanders the company’s greatest asset: storytelling. The movie serves as yet another Disney cash-in, a direction that appropriately makes all the action feel breezy and weightless, but as forgettable as a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s the kind of cheap skate the company used to avoid up until the turn of the decade when Disney’s in-house animation studio started rivaling the company in quality. Curiously, they were both headed up by the same man, Pixar creator John Lasseter who has recently been ousted from Disney as a whole following countless assault allegations.
The movie makes some use of the few good ideas it has without advancing them. Most of the laughs come from the handling of Jack-Jack, the superhero family baby. As the patriarch of the family, Bob is left domesticated as Mr. Mom, and the movie gets a lot of comedic leverage out of the somewhat antiquated premise greatly increased by super powers. It’s more of the same that was seen in the short film Jack-Jack Attack and works just as well here. In fact like most of the comedy like the best parts of the crappy Fantastic Four, comes from ‘Supers’ behaving in normal ways with their powers. The higher resolution animation adds a few more textural wrinkles: Bob’s stubble and bags under the eyes. My mom commented how something as subtle as Samuel L. Jackson’s walk made it in show how far animation as a medium has come.
As interesting as the little things are and I wish they had gotten more attention, the major plot line of Elastigirl and the PR campaign to put supers back in the spotlight doesn’t really go anywhere and any story turns are readily apparent if you follow Ebert’s Law.¹ The voice cast is still as great as ever with some adjustments made as the original voice actor for Dash has aged out of his role and Jonathan Banks replaces Bud Luckey who passed away. Catherine Keener still manages to tired and messy even in animated form as part of a brother sister duo, the other half voiced by Bob Odenkirk who are new additions that add surprisingly little. There’s also a bit more regarding other superheroes but it is passively interesting and wrung for nothing more than a few chuckles.
Brad Bird expressed in the past that he would only do a sequel to The Incredibles if he found a story that was as good or better than the original. Well he must have needed the money after Tomorrowland because this follow-up is a cash-in that critics unanimously agree doesn’t even approach the first film in quality even if they are more than kind to it. This is the first Pixar film I have seen in theatres since Inside Out and I still haven’t liked one since the ambitious but ultimately okay/ overrated Toy Story 3 eight years ago (WALL-E is my favourite). With a new Studio Lead, if Pixar wants to approach the level of excellence it had with hits like Monster’s Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and WALL-E it is going to have to stop leaning too heavily on the past, whether it be in the thematic sense; repeating the retro-futurist angle of The Incredibles to diminishing returns, revisiting old memories in Cars, Up, Inside Out and Coco, or being straight up derivative in its storytelling presets Monster’s University & the primitive Good Dinosaur. Still, it will probably take casual audiences until Toy Story 4 next summer to realize Pixar’s glory days are as long gone as its old boss. In the meantime, I’m sure the billions of dollars they make helps ease the looming creative bankruptcy. Although the think-pieces for this one are already starting to pile up.