Fourteen years after The Incredibles brought computer animated films to a new level, the super-powered Parr family returns – dropping the "The" from their movie's title in the process – picking up literally where The Incredibles dropped off, with the family battling the villainous Underminer and no one yet aware that innocent baby Jack-Jack has a seemingly endless array of superpowers.
The opening to Incredibles 2 calls to mind that of Captain America: Civil War (and indeed, that of many sequels), where our heroes, finally fighting as a cohesive unit, mess things up just as they're getting started. And as with the Avengers, the government comes in to pull the plug. (In the Incredibles' early 1960s universe, superheroes are illegal, which forms the crux of this film's plot.) Enter a billionaire brother and sister, who recruit Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to be the new face of superheroism in order to inspire governments to legalize her kind. But with the shady likes of Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener voicing the siblings, you instantly know that at least one of them is up to no good.
Incredibles 2 certainly delivers the action and the jokes – Jack-Jack steals the show every moment he appears – the production design and cinematography are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and it's nice to see Elastigirl take the lead, after Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) anchored the first movie.
Yet while I enjoyed the film, there was something a little off about it that bugged me.
For starters, I found the design of the new characters to be bland and awkward – stylistically, there's nothing on the level of Syndrome and Mirage from the first film.
Second, writer/director Brad Bird's script has a hard time focusing. The villain of the piece is someone called the Screenslaver, who hypnotizes people via TV screens while simultaneously raging against mass media. Yet the Screenslaver ultimately has a different, more personal agenda that has little to no connection to those anti-corporate philosophies. It's as if Bird had a clever concept but couldn't come up with a decent through-line for it, so he just let his plot rehash The Incredibles, with similar themes of childhood grudges and a superheroes vs. normal people dichotomy that's never really developed. By the end of the movie, with a lackluster conclusion involving a speeding boat, I got the feeling that Bird had run out of ideas.
The lush visuals and Jack-Jack gags still make the movie worth seeing, even if it lacks the freshness of the first Incredibles. But as lesser films like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Star Wars: The Force Awakens have shown, there is something to be said about waiting too long to do a sequel.