It’s been 14 years, and Bird finally has hatched an idea that resulted in the follow-up to the tale of the superhero family.
Bird should have spent a little less time pondering what to do with the Parr family. Because while “Incredibles 2” is a fun family film, the multiple storylines Bird has woven through the production often get tangled. A little more simplicity would have lifted “Incredibles 2” from good to the incredible status of the first film.
The central story that should have been the focus picks up immediately after the end of the first movie. Those with superpowers are living in a world where they are forbidden by law to use their skills. But that hasn’t stopped the mom and dad team of Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), plus their children Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) from fighting crime. The only thing slowing them down is baby Jack-Jack, who needs constant attention.
Things might be changing, as the family is approached by a fast-talking Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) who — with the help of his tech-minded sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener) — wants to change the way people look at superheroes. His plan is a well-planned publicity campaign that will feature Elastigirl.
How Elastigirl handles the pressure of being in the spotlight and the strain her being away puts on the family are strong enough building blocks to carry the movie. But the central strength of the family dynamic gets pushed down by less interesting plot threads of young love gone wrong, a cautionary tale of technology, sibling rivalries and a bevy of new characters with superpowers. The only one of the new characters that is developed enough to be interesting is Voyd (Sophia Bush), whose kryptonite is teen angst.
The one additional story thread that works has to do with Jack-Jack’s budding powers. Whether it be a training session with the haute couture designer Edna (voiced by Bird) or the standout battle between the laser-shooting, dimension-hopping, fire-throwing baby and a raccoon, Jack-Jack steals the show. That’s partly because the baby is funny and interesting enough to command his own movie, and partly because the rest of the script has gaping holes that scream out for a savior like Jack-Jack.
One of the advantages of the 14-year gap is technology has dramatically advanced. “Incredibles 2” has a visual richness that makes each frame explode with color, texture and design. It is a beautifully shot production, down to the tiniest hair on a character’s head.
Had Bird not taken advantage of the passing years to keep adding layers to the story, “Incredibles 2” would have lived up to the power and beauty of the original film. As it is, the sequel comes across strong, but not as super as a decade-plus wait would suggest.
Fans of “The Incredibles” should plan on showing up late at the theater. The short that accompanies the feature film, “Bao,” is by far the biggest miscue in the history of Pixar. The story of a Chinese-Canadian woman who raises a dumpling when it comes to life features uninspired animation, a script that is so muddled it takes a team of experts to explain what’s happening and an event that is so disturbing, young children should not be allowed to see it. Watching that moment is like seeing the Pillsbury Doughboy being tossed in the oven and served with Thanksgiving dinner.
Director Domee Shi became so engaged in small details like making sure the way the main characters makes dumplings is authentic as possible that key story elements are either left out or presented in such a convoluted manner, many will miss the points.
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sophia Bush, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Samuel L. Jackson.
Director: Brad Bird.
Rated PG for action scenes.
Running time: 118 minutes.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.=