By Patrick Bracken
Citizen Chronicle Film Critic
A strange advertisement plays before the start of Incredibles 2, the latest from Pixar Studios and Disney. It features the stars of the movie apologizing that it has taken 14 years for the sequel to be released and assuring the audience that it’s been worth the wait.
While this mea culpa feels weird coming before a film that an audience has already paid to see, it does help remind everyone of the context. When the first Incredibles movie was released in 2004, it was before the current superhero renaissance. Iron Man was still four years away. The Incredibles, therefore, felt like a revelation. It was a superhero movie when superhero movies — especially good ones — were rare.
Because of this, The Incredibles 2 has two near impossible jobs: To honor the memory of a beloved animated classic, while also acknowledging more than a decade of live-action superhero spectacle. The film succeeds at one, while shortchanging the other.
Incredibles 2 picks up immediately where the original left off. While battling the Underminer (John Ratzenberger), the Parr family destroys half of their city and fails to capture the villain. This puts them again at odds with a society where superpowers are illegal. However, wealthy marketer Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his tech-savvy inventor sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) have a plan to rehabilitate the image of the “supers.” This involves placing a body camera on the least destructive hero, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), and broadcasting her triumphs to a grateful nation. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is left at home to play Mr. Mom while his wife gets the glory and the fun.
Naturally, things aren’t all that they seem. And this is one of the major problems with the sequel; it is, at its core, a gender-swapped remake of the first film. The story beats feel like pale imitations of what’s come before. Violet (Sarah Vowell) has boy problems. Mr. Incredible is better at being a superhero than being a stay-at-home dad. Elastigirl has to reconcile being a superhero and a mother. The most fun and interesting character should be Jack-Jack, the Incredible’s baby, but hardcore fans of Pixar and the first film have already had his surprises ruined for them. It takes too long to get through these familiar family dynamic scenes. Younger children will be squirming.
Once through those scenes, though? That’s where The Incredibles 2 lives up to its name. Director Brad Bird expertly juggles a dozen different super heroes, each with unique powers, to create thrilling action sequences that rival the best of the Marvel Universe. The scene in which Elastigirl first fights villain Screenslaver is visually stunning and could only be done by Pixar.
All of this means that The Incredibles 2 is not a worthy 2018 Incredibles movie. What it is, however, is a worthy 2018 superhero movie. Pixar, apology accepted.