“Incredibles 2” not quite incredible enough

Many Pixar films have received sequels even when it didn’t seem as if they needed them. “Finding Dory”, “Cars 2”, “Cars 3” and “Monsters University” are all proof of that, essentially elevating secondary characters into primary roles and trying to create franchises when one story was simply enough. The examples above in general feel less than their predecessors because of a lack of ingenuity, a sense that their only reason for existence is money. Films such as “Toy Story” are inclined towards sequels because of a wide crew of characters whose relationships develop and a chance to build upon themes of maturation and family. The same can be said of the first “Incredibles” movie, a story that tackled the modern American family, mid-life crises and adolescent angst. Those themes translate to growth in another film, much how “Toy Story 2” and “3” built upon and deepened the themes of the first movie. “The Incredibles 2” manages to do some theme building and growth, but is hamstrung by some of the same problems that plague other Pixar sequels.

The film picks up right after the events of the first film. The Parr family must deal with the fallout from another botched hero operation, and Mrs. Incredible (Holly Hunter) is recruited by the Deavors, Evelyn (Catherine Keener) and Winston (Bob Odenkirk), on a reclamation project for superheroes. In a brand new family role, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) must help raise the family, Dash (Huck Milner), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile), a role he’s never had before.

The film does a good job of bringing new themes of feminism and family into the series. Mrs. Incredible is now the superhero star and Mr. is home, being a house husband. It shows how both responsibilities carry weight and importance for the good of the family. In fact, the film could have gone even further, especially in regards to the villain, whose motivation is clearly lacking after how integral Syndrome and his philosophy was to the first movie. Perhaps if the villain were a man-hating anarchist whose mission is to destroy male-centered hegemony or something to that effect. The greatest detriment to the film is its villain and how unimportant they are to the plot. There’s a slight theme about screens and how they control us, but it too could have been taken much deeper.

And as with other Pixar sequels, a secondary character is elevated to a major role in the sequel, in this case Jack-Jack. While entertaining at times, he soon overrides the plot, the same joke over and over again. It becomes redundant.

It’s still great to see the family in another adventure. The film is enjoyable with plenty of cool action sequences and funny moments. The animation looks great (aside from a few cartoony new superheroes) and incorporates the same vintage silver age of comics grandeur and sci-fi panache. But it’s all too familiar and lacks the depth of its predecessor.

*SPOILERS*

The plot is far too similar to the first film. The Incredibles family is forced into hiding, a secret benefactor tries to help them, drama ensues on the home front, the benefactor betrays them and the family must fight together to save the public. And the film ends exactly the same as the first with Violet dating Tony, the family together and fighting crime and hope for the future.

Something, anything different would have been appreciated. Perhaps there is a supervillain family that the team must confront and turn to their side. Perhaps the supervillains were being paid off by the government when the supers were banned to stop committing crime, echoing current fears about corruption. Or the film is set 14 or so years after the first one and the Parr family must deal with Violet going to college, Jack-Jack and Dash not getting along as brothers and other maturation issues.

The result would be a different story with a different conclusion. The family would have grown in some way, having overcome new dilemmas and conflicts. But director Brad Bird, as with many directors before him, was too enamored with his previous project and simply retread what worked.

 

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