Published Jun 11, 2018Perhaps it's unfair to criticize a family cartoon for "playing it safe." Still, it's a little disappointing, given the very high standard set by the original 2004 film, that Incredibles 2 is so completely devoid of new ideas. This is a by-the-numbers redux of the first Incredibles movie — it's fun to watch, but it's too predictable to be truly gripping.
The film once again brings us into the Parr family bubble, as Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), his wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and their three kids attempt to save the world from bad guys despite laws that make superheroes illegal. The film is set in the immediate aftermath of the first one, so all of the characters are the same ages. Early in the film, the family are approached by two tech-sector fat cats (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) who involve them in a public relations scheme to help legalize superpowers.
As soon as the plan is introduced, it's clear exactly how it's going to play out, and we then spend the next couple of hours watching every piece fall exactly into place. This action-centric storyline is balanced out by a similarly boilerplate domestic subplot in which Mr. Incredible stays home looking after the kids while Elastigirl heads out to fights baddies. It's a well-meaning attempt to flip traditional gender roles, but given that it's basically just an animated superhero version of 1983's Mr. Mom, it feels a little out of date.
As unoriginal as all of this is, the film still hits the mark in terms of humour, cuteness and visual spectacle. The action sequences are stunning — a chase scene involving an out-of-control train is fantastic, and there's an amazing strobe-lit fight scene that probably ought to come with a seizure warning. Director Brad Bird has spent the years since the first movie directing live-action features (including 2011's Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and he's clearly got a great eye for action. The film's aesthetic is a sci-fi take on mid-century modernism, which looks extremely fashionable in our post-Mad Men world. And if watching a giggling baby deal with his nascent superpowers while doing battle with a pesky neighbourhood raccoon is your thing, there's plenty of that too.
All of this adds up to a perfectly enjoyable movie that kids will likely love. But considering the revelatory brilliance of some other Pixar sequels — like the Toy Story franchise — it's hard not to see Incredibles 2 as a missed opportunity.