It has, somehow, been 14 years since the release of The Incredibles. The fantastic CG-animated film was one of Pixar’s early-ish hits, acing it with audiences and critics alike and winning two Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Sound Editing. It really shouldn’t have taken this long for a sequel, but better late than never, Disney•Pixar arrives with a fun follow-up that should give fans and newcomers alike a great time, despite falling a little short from recapturing the first film’s magic.
The sequel picks up almost directly from where the first film left off, with the Barr family taking on ground-drilling villain the Underminer. The ensuing chase results in widespread destruction, further cementing the government’s decision to keep superheroes illegal. When the “Super Relocation” program is shut down, Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) decide its time to hang up the suits; Bob, very reluctantly. The kids, Dashiell/Dash (Huck Milner) and Violet (Sarah Vowell), aren’t too happy with the development either. Superhero fan and tech tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) approaches the Barrs with an idea to eventually change government policy. Elastigirl heads off to take part in Deavor’s plan, leaving Bob at home with the kids and baby Jack-Jack, whose array of powers are becoming increasingly challenging to predict and control.
Part of the first film’s winning formula was its focus on this family’s dynamic, particularly Bob and Helen’s relationship; there was an emotional maturity to the characterisation that was wonderfully juggled with the superhero narrative. Thankfully, writer-director Brad Bird once again shows off a deft touch when finding that balance. Bird clearly loves these characters, and his screenplay shows as much. Among all the big set pieces and kinetic action, he ensures that we’re ultimately in it because of how much we care about the Barrs.
It’s a fun, energetic animated film, and it would be great if it were a standalone feature. Alas, it’s a continuation of what has come before, and as such, it pales in comparison to some of what made that film stand out. As charming as it is, Bird’s screenplay doesn’t have the same level of pathos that was injected into the first, and the overall narrative doesn’t feel as fresh in the midst of this superhero-filled cinematic era.
A big issue is the villain of the piece. Whereas Syndrome was a great antagonist in the original film, carrying strong motivation for his villainy and tying it all firmly to our heroes, the villain here comes in almost like an afterthought. After teasing us with the who and why of our baddie for quite a while, it’s a bit of a disappointment. You don’t particularly care about their plight, but thankfully the film has a finale that brings in other “supers” – a smart move to keep things moving and stakes high.
It may not be the rip-roaring winner this writer was waiting for, but there’s no denying how much there is to like here. The voice cast is a joy, the animation is – as you’d expect – fantastic, and Michael Giacchino’s exuberant score spices it all up. And yes, Baby Jack-Jack steals the show every time he’s on.