There’s a line from the first “Incredibles” where the villain tells the hero his apology is 15 years too late. After a 14-year wait for a sequel, I feel Disney owes us an apology, too.
“Incredibles 2” is the long-awaited follow up to the 2004 masterpiece about a family of superheroes. This time around the mother, Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter), sets out on a quest to put superheroes back in the limelight and end their forced exile. Meanwhile, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) must play stay-at-home dad and watch Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack. Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener and Jonathan Banks also star as Brad Bird returns to write and direct.
To say that I was looking forward to this film would be an understatement. I think the first “Incredibles” is one of the best animated films ever made and, not counting the “Toy Story” trilogy, is probably Pixar’s best effort. It’s likely the best thing we’ll ever get to a Fantastic Four movie (unless Marvel gets the rights back from Fox), and Bird has stated for years he only wanted to do a sequel if he could find a story worth telling. Well apparently his “story worth telling” meant to just flip which parent goes out to fight crime, because this is pretty much a beat-for-beat remake of the first film.
“The Incredibles” was gorgeous and that doesn’t change here, full of colorful animation and a nice 1960s spy-era set design. With almost a cartoon panel background, the sequences that feature Elastigirl fighting crime and saving the day are thrilling and a lot of fun, partnered with Michael Giacchino returning to compose the famous score.
There are a handful of laughs. and Bird continues to show that he knows how to set up a visual gag. Baby Jack-Jack provides one of the most entertaining sequences of the entire film, setting off his array of young powers on an unsuspecting raccoon.
The problem with the film is that we’ve seen it before. In 2004, the superhero genre was still trying to find itself (with the likes of “Daredevil” and “Catwoman”) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe hadn’t changed the game yet. Now, 14 years later, it would take a real gem to show us something we hadn’t seen before but as “Thor: Ragnarok” showed us, it’s possible to do a complete 180 with an established set of characters.
The only real difference is while the first film is wonderfully dark at points and tackles some real world issues like depression and marriage, as well as Syndrome’s “if everyone is super, nobody is” mantra, this is much more kid-friendly, with side characters right out of a video game with powers like vomiting lava (yup).
“Incredibles 2” seems content going through the motions, with Mr. Incredible again frustrated by having to stay retired, Violet going through teenage angst and Jack-Jack happily unleashing himself on an unsuspecting audience. Meanwhile a villain with a personal vendetta against superheroes tries to bring down one of the parents. Except while Syndrome (wonderfully voiced by Jason Lee) was a perfect microcosm of fanboy culture and how it can erode one’s faith in the very thing they love, the bad guy here is one-note and mostly just a plot device (short of one menacing monologue).
“Incredibles 2” clearly didn’t have much of a new story to tell and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a sequel hitting the same notes (the delicate balance of needing to balance familiarity with freshness), the 14-year wait left more to be desired. Little kids should be distracted by the colors (if not bored by some pacing) and people in their 20s like me should get a kick out of seeing our childhood revisited, but I just wish it ended up being a trip worth taking.
Critic’s grade: C+.