Shortly after their takedown of the Underminer (John Ratzenberger), The Parr family are arrested and their relocation programme is shut down. Pushed to the point of desperation and wishing to make Supers legal again, Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) are convinced by their friend Lucius Best/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) to meet with industrialists interested in helping them. Superhero-obsessed Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) want to give Supers a positive PR spin and decide that Elastigirl would be better to accomplish that. Bob agrees to stay at home and help the kids while Helen goes out superheroing. Bob is left to deal with teenager Violet’s (Sarah Vowell) crush who cannot remember her because of interference caused by him and their former government liaison Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks), and Dash (Huck Milner) with his maths homework. Causing bigger issues is his discovery that the Parr’s youngest child Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) has an uncontrollable number of superpowers. Meanwhile, Helen is being targeted by a villain known as Screenslaver, who wishes to remove Supers from legal status permanently.
The Incredibles remains one of Pixar’s most popular movies. Created in an era just before the superhero boom really took off and dominated the industry, it sported an excellent and fun cast with a compact and well executed story about the importance of embracing your abilities and complex family dynamics.
Ever since the original film aired in 2004, potential was rife for a sequel, though writer/director Brad Bird refused to commit to one as he said he told the story he wanted to tell. 14 years and a underperforming Disney film later, Bird returns to this stomping ground to give the people what they want. The end results are, unfortunately, kind of disappointing given the potential.
Let me clarify; I don’t think this is a bad movie. There are lots of things I like in it. The animation, for one. I love the wrinkles around the eyes of the characters and the way their hair moves in the wind. Small details like that really make the world feel more immersive and it’s an obvious improvement on the original. Some of the action scenes, I would argue, blow those from the first film out of the water. Things that spring to mind are a train chase and a close-quarters fight.
I also like that this movie focuses on Helen more than Bob for the superheroing, as they use her powers in fun ways and I love her detachable motorcycle. We get to see more Supers, which is cool as the first film sans the Parrs and Frozone basically had all of theirs be killed offscreen. Their powers can be fun and inventive, though they’re not used as much until the end. It’s got some really decent comedy in places, especially scenes with Jack-Jack though they do kind of feel like shorts.
What are my issues, then? Mostly story and character based. The writing is really off this time around. The dialogue never really feels that authentic, and characters can drone on without anything interesting really happening in the scene. They also have a tendency to set up a lot without it ever paying off, like the moral responsibility of doing the right thing versus staying within the confines of the law.
Other (non-dialogue) set-ups include putting bodycams on crime fighters, which is an incredibly relevant topic. Both of these are never really satisfyingly addressed, as the fight for superhero rights just comes way too easily both publicly and legally, and the bodycam thing is just never really addressed despite being rife for commenting on. These are just two examples, but the film pulls this shit a lot.
Also, some of the characterisation feels…off? Out of the returning cast, I think Helen fares the best out of those with a prolonged presence in the film. Bob is kind of a dick here. While I get where he’s coming from, he seems more bitter and mean-spirited than in the last film. While he could be that in places, his circumstances were a lot different and his reactions to his wife just never come across as genuine.
Dash also seems to be a bit more brattish than before, though his character doesn’t really impact the story. Violet has become incredibly irritating and brash, though it doesn’t help that she is saddled with easily the worst subplot. Frozone and Edna Mode do fare better, but they’re not in the film all that much. This may have been easier to buy had this not taken place literally seconds after the original, just to add. Also them trusting MORE mysterious strangers offering them a superhero job, while I’m here.
Finally, the focus is all over the place. It’s hard to see what this film is about, which really isn’t an issue with The Incredibles. It doesn’t help that the exceptionally weak villain has a plan that makes absolutely no sense and I can’t get into why because of spoilers. The idea that it’s about the legalisation of Supers kind of doesn’t work because everything about that happens too easily. Elastigirl does, like, two missions that go fine (with property damage, which is something the film emphasises is a problem for the population of this world), and suddenly everybody is totally on board with making Supers legal again? This is Springfield-levels of the public changing their minds on something, for Christ sake!
If Bob/Helen and the homelife are the focus, the balance of the family, then the movie really failed to exemplify how Helen’s being Elastigirl either helps or hinders the Parrs. The first two thirds are a myriad of subplots that just don’t mesh until the supervillains SHOCKING reveal. It’s just really poor writing relying on your nostalgia googles than doing something really interesting with the premise. I wasn’t that huge a fan of Finding Dory, but at least that tried something a little different!
I know a lot of people really dug this film, and that’s fine. It’s not terrible by any means, and has some parts I really liked, even character-based ones (there’s a bit where Bob is complaining about maths, and the resolve of him picking up the book and learning the new method, is a nice cliché dodge and very much in character). It’s not the worst. It just feels like a cynical, nostalgia-baiting cash grab that would have been the sequel they would have released for a quick buck three years after the original film’s release, not a follow-up 14 years in the waiting. You may have gotten something out of this, but for me, it was an incredible disappointment.
Just like that pun.