Not Quite - Incredibles 2
When you wait 14 years for something, expectations have a way of getting away from you. The advances in animation, the ever-changing global landscape and all the time in the world to come up with a compelling story seemed like they would all come together and give us the perfect followup to 2004's Incredibles. In the past, Pixar has displayed unrivaled imagination and created consistently excellent final products, so the bar is as high as can be. And while Incredibles 2 manages to be fairly entertaining (in large part due to the antics of Jack Jack), it is mid-grade Pixar at best. It is still very good, but a number of confounding decisions left it feeling incomplete even as its runtime approached 2 hours.
While 14 years have passed in real life, we pick up pretty much where we left off with the Parr family. Superheroes are now illegal and they are forced to hide their identities. Jack Jack, the baby, is displaying powers to the surprise of everyone in the family. Dash (voiced by Huck Milner), the middle child, is still running as fast as he can to get everywhere. And Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), the oldest, is struggling with the high school dating scene. Their parents, Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) and Elastagirl (voiced by Holly Hunter), must deal with all of these complications while also being advocates for the superhero community and fighting crime where they can.
After getting involved in a major news event, the Incredibles and their friend, Frozone (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), are contacted by Winston Deavor, a superhero fan who runs his family's telecommunications company. He wants to incorporate cameras into their suits to show the world that superheroes are good once and for all. With the help of his sister, Evelyn Deavor, they design suits that will give the public a full view of how superheroes save the day. When a villain named Screenslaver (voiced by Bill Wise) starts to challenge Elastagirl to be the hero, she must work to get to the bottom of who is behind the crime spree. Meanwhile, Mr. Incredible must juggle all of the family drama that seems to shift under his feet minute by minute.
Like X-Men, Superman and several others, the Incredibles-universe uses the prohibition of superheroes as a commentary on being forced to hide who you are. And while that ground is ripe for commentary in today's environment of differences dividing us, it never really goes anywhere with it. It also never really does much with its storyline about the corporation being at the center of the push for policy change. While it had an open runway to say something about the way profits drive companies to advocate policy changes that are in their favor, they instead chose to make characters' motivations be about more inconsequential personal issues. From there, it was hard to take its messaging very seriously.
The messaging it does get right, however, is the contemplation of the family unit. From the opening frames, this is a progressive family. We see Mr. Incredible eventually figuring out what it takes to be a stay at home dad while his wife goes out and saves the world. That visual of a high-achieving woman doing her own thing even while being there for her family is the movie's strongest feature. There is definitely a version of this movie that starts in the right place and winds up somewhere different, so I am thankful we got the very best version of the family melodrama. I just wish they hadn't stopped there.
Doing a movie at this scale is no small feat. There are hundreds of people working on all sorts of functions and so much of their work is done impeccably here. The lighting, the animation, the action sequences, all of these things are top flight. But at the end of the day, it is story that makes movies what they are and while this screenplay isn't a disaster, the amount of unrealized potential is disappointing. It will undoubtedly make a ton of money as this is one of Pixar's most beloved franchises. And it will undoubtedly sell lots of merchandise, as the characters are all ready-made toys. But it will also undoubtedly fall short of the Pixar pantheon. In much the same way Finding Dory failed to recapture the magic of its predecessor, I think we will look back at this as one that was great for Disney, but didn't really do much for us.
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