In the 14 years since The Incredibles, the superpowered Parr family hasn’t aged a day. This sequel picks up right where the first film left off — except director Brad Bird has gotten older, and he sure feels a lot of ways about a lot of stuff. Bird is weirdly concerned with shifting gender roles, even though Elastigirl was basically the heroine of the first movie; he thinks an untrustworthy media is poisoning the judgment of the clueless masses (“everyone else” is always a little less special to Bird); and he’s still convinced that exceptional people are smothered by stupid rules. Stuff is generally just too complicated these days for Bird — and also holy shit the baby shoots laser beams. One thing that hasn’t changed is Bird’s prowess as one of the best old-fashioned carpenters working at the studio level, unfussily relying on wide shots loaded with detail and cutting away from action sparingly. There are probably two dozen shots in Incredibles 2 that feature five or six characters moving fluidly around and through the frame, all tracked perfectly. Combine this spectacular action with Michael Giacchino’s delightful John Barry 007 ripoff score and you have a film that’s pretty dazzling, moment-to-moment.
The original Incredibles managed to stir Bird’s oddly objectivist concerns about exceptionalism into what was primarily a family drama, but here those two elements just awkwardly lie next to each other.
Trouble is, a lot like Bird’s equally loaded, clumsy, and impeccably staged Tomorrowland, Incredibles 2 is like three movies awkwardly smashed together, and without a lot of thought as to how those movies’ (often conflicting) ideas manifest themselves in the actual story — which amiably bounces from beat to beat, but never gathers much actual momentum. Frankly, it’s a huge mistake not to age the characters, which would have more effectively entwined the threads about fear of change, domestic strife, corrosive new media or shorter attention spans. Picture Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl struggling with new roles in their marriage while the now-mostly-grown kids are out in the world, very visibly in public, with more fully developed powers. Instead, teen Violet still has the same crush on the same boy from before, and little Dash just wants to run fast and show off, same as before, and of course the whole family has to pull it together to fight a fairly bland villain. The original Incredibles managed to stir Bird’s oddly objectivist concerns about exceptionalism into what was primarily a family drama, but here those two elements just awkwardly lie next to each other.