“He is bright and I am stimulating. We deserve each other.” That’s a line that had my good friend Sonja in stitches when we were screening Incredibles 2 in the theater. Though, I have to say these types of obligatory jokes meant to keep adults entertained while they accompany their children at the theater are pretty much expected these days. It seems like there was a sea change a few decades ago (ahem, Aladdin) where studio executives at Disney (and nowadays Pixar) realized they could entertain kids and parents in the same feature. Enter The Incredibles 2.
The Incredibles 2 is the continuation of the 2004 film that was met with extreme critical and commercial success. It’s about a family that is, well, incredible. Each member possesses a superpower that is basically a roulette of all the common ones. We’ve got the superfast power, the shielding power, the making ice on cue power, and being super stretchy power–among others. But you probably already know this. Who actually hasn’t seen the original film? It was super fun, nice to look at, and a nice way to provide a younger audience a healthy dose of action that was energizing but not overtly violent.
I can start with the things I admire about this film. It has some of the campy plot elements and tropes of a James Bond film (particularly the Roger Moore ones) and the comic book nature of the Avengers films. It is probably the most self-aware Pixar film and there are a handful of times where, granted they’re animated, the actors are winking at the camera. The animation is excellent, but that pretty much goes without saying these days. It’s modern, fresh, and embraces a diverse representation of a multitude of different people. In some ways, you could discern a political slant to the film, but nothing as obvious as something like Wall-E, but there are certainly suggestions.
However, The Incredibles 2 doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. It’s kind of the same-old, same-old. (I say this despite the fact that I’m one of the biggest James Bond fans in the world, so I can understand if this complaint comes across as hypocritical). It follows a very formulaic beat and, without spoiling anything, it’s very clear that by the end of this film, the executives had decided they were going to be developing a franchise.
Disney is good at franchises and cinematic universes–with a caveat. It works best when it’s either Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I question the idea with developing ones with their animated and Pixar projects. Some of the best work that has come out of those brands are undoubtedly standalone films. Up, Wall-E, Inside Out, and, most recently, Coco, are great examples of nuanced, thoughtful, and, at times, tear-jerking and original projects. I think at the end of the day, that’s what we’ve come to expect from this particular studio’s brand, and we’ve decided we want the original stuff and to invest our time with other studio franchises. Toy Story is arguably the exception to this thesis of mine.
Is The Incredibles 2 good? I’m going to answer that question with sort of a non answer. The Incredibles 2 is fun. You won’t be bored. You will laugh. You will have an enjoyable 2 hours. And if you have kids, they will be amused by a large amount of nonviolent action and some campy humor. You will get a kick out of some funny inside jokes or slight fourth wall breaks. We will all benefit from seeing an incredible (sorry I tried not to make a pun) amount of diverse characters. My hunch…it won’t be as long as 14 years this time before there’s another one.