FILM REVIEW – INCREDIBLES 2. With the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson. Written by and directed by Brad Bird. Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language. 118 minutes.
There was a time when a Pixar film was a sure thing, with cutting-edge computer animation combined with great storytelling and memorable characters. They could make us laugh and they could make us cry, often in the same film. However, with the notable exception of “Toy Story,” there’s something they can’t seem to do, and that’s make great sequels to their past hits.
“Cars 2” may have been the worst film they ever released. “Monsters University” was a letdown from the brilliant “Monsters, Inc.” The “Finding Nemo” sequel, “Finding Dory,” was okay but wasn’t really necessary. The streak continues with INCREDIBLES 2, a movie that has its moments, but coming fourteen years after the original film, probably should have been put aside in favor of developing some new original content.
Part of the problem is that in the years since “The Incredibles” we’ve been inundated with superhero movies. In many ways, “Incredibles 2” looks like they rebooted a script from the Marvel or DC universes. It’s a film that feels like we’ve already seen it – several times.
The story focuses on Winston Deavor (voice of Bob Odenkirk) who has a plan to overturn the ban against superheroes. It involves putting Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) front-and-center, leaving Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) to stay at home with the kids. The evil villain is someone called the Screenslaver, but Elastigirl soon learns that everything is not as it seems.
Coming after this year’s “Black Panther” and “The Avengers: Infinity War,” it’s pretty mundane even with a twist that leads to the superheroes fighting each other. Since this is a sequel, it has to repeat what made the original memorable, and so there are scenes with superhero costume designer Edna Mode (voice of writer/director Brad Bird) even though she’s really irrelevant to the story.
The one element that raises the film above what used to be called a “Gentleman’s C,” is Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile), the family’s baby who starts to exhibit his abilities. The powers that be at Disney/Pixar seem to get that he’s the best part of the movie, as critics were sent a message specifically asking us not to reveal anything about this plot point. Suffice to say, when Jack-Jack is on screen, the film exhibits signs of life that is sorely lacking much of the rest of the time.
“Incredibles 2” is not unwatchable, and viewers with low expectations will likely find it entertaining if overlong. It is, however, the sort of “grind-them-out-like-sausage” movie that one had hoped Pixar would avoid, and makes one worry about their release for next summer. Given the dramatic brilliance of the ending of “Toy Story 3,” is there really a need for “Toy Story 4” except a chance to cash in?•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.