Everyone loved “The Incredibles” in 2004. Despite feverish hopes that its ending was meant to signal a sequel, time marched on without a peep from the Parrs. But here we are in 2018, the age of Pixar churning out sequels and recycling plot beats—the time is finally right for “Incredibles 2!”
Much to the chagrin of people who loved the “Toy Story” trilogy for how it grew up with them, “Incredibles 2” begins at the exact moment that “The Incredibles” ended. While the ending of the original tied things up nicely from a thematic standpoint, many fans have elected to ignore that fact and hang from a cliff for fourteen years, so the fight against the mole man commences posthaste. But writer/director Brad Bird, ever the economical filmmaker, hardly lets the perfunctory intro go to waste: character development is just as underway as The Underminer.
Bird is a virtuoso of making movies that respect kids and adults, and “Incredibles 2” is no exception. In a world of filmmakers that are content to numb children’s minds and torture their parents, it’s refreshing to experience a story full of subtext and meaning. The threads from “The Incredibles” continue here: tension between the government and the private sector, the ups and downs of trusting a few powerful people to pursue the common good, and of course, the heroism it takes to keep a family strong.
Concerning the latter, the responsibility falls to the family’s resident strongman. After a wealthy businessman recruits Helen Parr in the interest of rebranding superheroes, Bob is left to take care of the family. This role reversal fits right at home with Bird’s penchant for social commentary and the resulting antics will ring true to any parent.
But as the film progresses, “Incredibles 2” suffers the same fate as Bird’s previous film “Tomorrowland”—it’s too much. If stable storytelling is a perfect glass of water, “Incredibles 2” is full to the brim. In addition to the themes carried over from the original, each character serves as a familial metaphor: Bob represents threatened masculinity, Helen the neglect of a partner’s emotional needs, Violet the struggle to live with competing identities, Jack-Jack the potential to grow up into anyone—and Dash is just sort of there. There are so many messages that it’s impossible to balance without spilling.
And then the villain drops in like ice into the already full glass, and “Incredibles 2” splashes into a thematic mess. Screenslaver speechifies about how addiction to screens is destroying society. It’s a painfully obvious idea, and it doesn’t even make sense for the movie’s 1960s setting.
The movie’s twist is somehow more obvious. “Incredibles 2” is so predictable that it’s embarrassing: Pixar keeps using the same twist over-and-over again, and this time around it’s so unsurprising that every hint dropped hits like a cinderblock.
On the plus side, the animation is great and the cast is still stellar—especially Holly Hunter and Sarah Vowell. The action is more fluid than it was in the original. The narrative, while a bit too familiar in some respects, is entertaining throughout. But “Incredibles 2” is an overstuffed delight: while it will cure the post-Parr depression of fans who’ve been waiting since the original, its scattershot approach to storytelling makes for a sequel that’s barely above par.