It has been 14 years since the first Incredibles movie unleashed onto theaters from Disney Pixar. Since then, the house that CGI built has produced many highs and lows that have given fans some of the greatest feats of animation. But none can match the visual brilliance of the Incredibles and its enduring cast of superheroes set in the milieu of 1950’s Midwest America. The plot surrounded the Parr family and their transformation into an elite group of superheroes very similar in prowess to the Fantastic 4. Bob and his wife Helen are the head of the Parr household. Their children, Dash and Violet fill out the supporting roles of this adorable cast and while the initial Incredibles proved why science fiction buffs go mad over 1950s superhero conventions, its sequel is far less homage than it is a subpar nostalgia trip.
The film is a visually stunning homage to the heyday of serial films and the golden age of comic books. The Incredibles is a direct inspiration of the Fantastic 4 franchise sprinkled with touches of Justice League grandeur. From a voice acting standpoint, the talents of its cast shine brighter than any CGI special effect. Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible), voiced by the stoic Craig T. Nelson, ofCoach fame, is as much a throwback to the American male stereotype that pervaded post-war culture in the U.S. as Elvis Presley was to music in that era. Nelson brings his deep baritone voice to a character that lends it sense of truth in the context of the time the film is meant to mirror. Helen Parr (Elastagirl) is portrayed by Holly Hunter, and her raspy subdued voice comes to fruition as each arc of the story concludes to its grandiose climax. Hunter plays the 50’s mother figure unlike anyone else. Rather than catering to the smothering archetypal matriarch emblematic to female characters during that time, Hunter counter Nelson’s stoicism by engendering her character with a subdued strength that carries the exposition of the film the entire way through.
Samuel L. Jackson returns to his role as Frozone and does not fail to deliver. His charm and sarcastic observations is a brilliant counterpoint to the straight-laced Mr. Incredible. As a supporting character, Lucius seems to take over by the third act as his intervention enabled the Parr children to escape from their predicament in the mansion and rescue their parents on the boat by the end of the film. But characters aside, Incredibles features some mesmerizing effects and brilliant directing from former animator and screenwriter Brad Bird. Known for his work on Disney classics such as Ratatouille and The Fox and the Hound, Bird intercuts the exposition of the film’s plot with the bombastic orchestral sound of Michael Giacchino’s score. Such crescendos during moments of action and plot development prove Bird’s worth as a filmmaker and made the Incredibles 2 such mindless entertainment.
The emotional depth of each character is endearing. Violet Parr, voiced by Sarah Vowell, delivers audiences a character that surmises all the innocence and pain of adolescent life in American society. Violet is a tortured character, torn between her love of her family and the pain of living an unusual life. Her anxiety is real, soaking up the screen with every tear she sheds over the doomed love she has for a fellow student in her High School. This sense of sadness pervades the progression of Violet’s character, giving fans that perfect turn around in the final act from tortured teenage girl to the savior of the Parr family. Sarah Vowell is a genius at voice acting adding gravitas to the confliction of her plight in a world unbalanced by the abnormal. Violet Parr is definitely the deepest of all the protagonists and her predicament by far was the most interesting of all subplots. But with a great score, interesting characters, and great directing/acting, Incredibles 2 seemed to fall short when compared to its predecessor.
Great voice-acting cannot overcome mediocre writing and unfortunately the novelty of a sequel that took over a decade to make wore off quick. Characters like Dash, voiced by Huck Milner, and his baby brother Jack-Jack, portrayed by Eli Fucile, brought little to the table and their presence seemed to be based solely on laughability factor rather than genuine necessity. While it is cute to see Jack-Jack realize his powers during the final act of the film, its nuance turned into annoyance as Fucile’s talents were wasted on cheap practical jokes and baby cooing sounds. Dash’s character is also the typical teenage boy with little subtext added to his persona. Milner’s portrayal of a 12-year-old boy was just that, nothing terrible necessarily but nothing novel either. From a screenwriter’s perspective, this lack of emotional subtext falls directly on the shoulders Bird himself who is credited as both Writer/Director of the Incredibles 2. After almost two hours, this sequel became mundane, almost contrite by the conclusion of the speedboat sequence.
When a supporting character is more intriguing than the protagonist a film runs into some heavy troubles and the Incredibles 2 did just that. Lucius’ screen time was limited and his lack of presence in the plot is felt. There were many parts of the film when all viewers saw were the trials of keeping a family together rather than an actual plot progression. The Parr family began to become uninteresting the more Helen stayed away from Bob and the patriarch became forced to become caretaker of the children. His plight was real for sure, but something in the stilted dialogue and over the top antics did not ring an emotional truth as much as Violet’s did with her High School love interest. Even the turnaround and plot reveal was expected to say the least. Forgoing any spoilers, the truth about Screen Slaver’s identity becomes all the more obvious by the middle act and the enemy’s revelation is more laughable than the film’s jokes combined. But still, The Incredibles 2 is a solid film despite some structural inequities and mundane subplots.
In the end, The Incredibles 2 is a great film for simple family entertainment. While Pixar has become a company founded on artistic commercialism, this sequel is more commercial than it is artistic. Very little was achieved in a franchise that took over a decade to progress and the large gaps in timelines show in all three acts of the film. A mixture of weak characters, soft story progression, and obvious plot reveals all combine to undermine what could have been another Disney Pixar masterpiece. Much like other sequels in established franchises, The Incredibles 2 pales in comparison to its forbearer. Strange, considering all this picture had in terms of a reference is only a single film to live up to.
It is definitely worth seeing in the cinemas surely but just don’t have your expectations set too high if you’re an animation fanboy. Disappointment and mediocrity plagued the writing of this film from Acts 1 to 3 but yet one still cannot help hoping for another sequel. The Incredibles is a thriving franchise regardless of this decade in the making sequel. If this series is to be a trilogy let us hope that its creators emphasize better screenwriting rather than special effects. The animation classification has gone far beyond the realm of simple entertainment as Pixar has shown us in the past. But here, the genre takes a backseat to the desires of its base audience by giving cadence to what is visual stimulating rather than intrinsically more valuable.