It’s been 14 years since The Incredibles hit the big screen, and that’s a long time to go between installments in a franchise. Star Wars went 16 years between Return of the Jedi and
Galactic C-Span The Phantom Menace, and look how that turned out. Yes, it made a lot of money, but storywise it was a disaster.
Incredibles 2 is no Phantom Menace (and we mean that in the good way), but as sequels go, it’s no Godfather 2.
The double Oscar-winning original was unique, warm, funny, and heartfelt. It was truly a family movie, one adults could enjoy with their kids, with comedy that resonated differently for parents and their kids. This movie has that as well, but it’s not nearly as abundant.
This franchise is at its best when the family is together as a unit. Their chemistry is real and endearing. The opening scene has everyone working to stop a crime boss from making a big score.. but the collateral damage only serves to reinforce why Supers have been banned from utilizing their skills. However the interaction and love between everyone, even kids resentful they’re on babysitting duty during the cool crisis, is what makes you want to watch the film.
But then mom, Elastigirl, gets drafted to be the face of Supers everywhere, in order to get the world to embrace them. So she’s off to fight the bad guys while Mr. Incredible (and his bruised ego) stays home to watch the kids.
And it’s here where everything starts to go off course.
Screenslaver is hypnotizing people to do his bidding, like creating runaway trains and assassinating diplomats. You don’t need a degree in script writing to quickly figure out who is behind this arch-nemesis. So Elastigirl is chasing her heroic tail while Mr. Incredible is relearning math (turns out math isn’t math), dealing with an angsty teen daughter and, oh yeah, realizing that his infant child has like a dozen special powers that no one can control.
This is the most delightful subplot of the film. You laugh at the kid’s antics while empathizing with the dad. Again, when the family (or most of them) is together this story delivers like Dominos.
But mom’s solo storyline is really just everything we’re tired of from the glut of super hero movies. From the opening of the movie to the climactic yacht & plane fight, the action sequences are just animated versions of the cliché ultimate battles we get in everything from DC and Marvel. This franchise isn’t about über-action, it’s about a family we can relate to, baby-shooting laser eyes notwithstanding. Yet for some reason, producers felt they had to be on par with the Ironman et al, without realizing they already are.
Talking ‘Bout My Generation
If anything drives this movie’s success, it’s going to be nostalgia. It’s hard for 20-somethings to be nostalgic for anything, but this movie may do it. These viewers were in pre-k & elementary and the original is likely one of their first cool cinematic memories. Their parents remember the first one as a movie their kids loved but also spoke to them as adults. The Incredibles was truly a win-win film.
But in the screening I saw, the kids, who were up to a decade away from being born when the first one came out, were pretty nonplussed by the film. The action and the dialogue tries to reach both generations but doesn’t hit it out of the park like the first one.
Overall this movie is really good, but it overindulges in what they think we want, and underdelivers on what we need.
One Last Note: Samuel “F” Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson plays Frozone, the BFF to the Incredibles who’s always willing to help out be it babysitting or saving the world. He’s versatile like that. But we wanted to point out this will be the rare blockbuster starring Samuel where he isn’t dropping F-bombs all over the place.
He once told me that he doesn’t use the word in all his movies, but those movies don’t make very much money. Well, there’s always an exception!
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A Sea Breeze. This cocktail’s name is appropriate for the climactic scene of the film. Make sure you have it on the rocks. Frozone would want it that way!