Soon to follow this review of The Incredibles 2 will likely be a Top 5 Ranking of my favorite Pixar films. Within that Top 5, surely The Incredibles (circa 2004) will be lodged in there somewhere. After three iterations of Cars and the flop of The Good Dinosaur, The Incredibles 2 had the ballsy audacity to open the film with a disclaimer saying that making a story is hard - and that’s why it took 14 years for The Incredibles 2 to be made. OKAY SURE. I guess it doesn’t really help their case then that the story they worked so hard on for The Incredibles 2 adequately suffered from sequel syndrome.
The Incredibles, as stated by NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, is a great feat of a superhero movie, and one of the best of its kind. It proceeded the almighty Marvel Cinematic Universe and delivered iconic characters like the ever-so-thicc Elastigirl, the jack-of-all-trades Jack-Jack, and who could forget EDNA. MODE. In The Incredibles 2, we revisit the Parr family immediately after the events of the first film as they work together to defeat the Underminer (what a great villain). Very quickly the story reveals itself to be one of advocacy for the ~legality~ of superheroes in human society. They toss the words “legal” and “illegal” in reference to people so many times, one can’t help but think, “Gee, are they trying to make a statement?” (The answer is no because that metaphor falls flat along with other similar thematic choices in the movie like police surveillance.)
Elastigirl gets recruited to be part of a privately funded effort to shed positive light to superheroes; she gets chosen over Mr. Incredible because she’s clearly the better superhero. This sets up the story of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl having to “switch places”, with Helen being the breadwinner so to speak, and Bob having to stay home and take care of the kids. Given the fact that this story is set in a retrofuturistic mid-century type setting, I can see what they’re trying to do here, but man oh man, talk about too little too late! Bob’s whole masculinity issue bored me to fucking tears and I only wanted to see more of Helen and family fighting crime than to see Bob cry over why he’s not as cool as his wife.
Some of The Incredibles 2’s most shining moments came from Jack-Jack and the discovery of his superpowers, á la Jack-Jack Attack. Jack-Jack and Dash were just so so cute this whole movie. Them and the addition of more superheroes was really refreshing to see, almost as refreshing as the return of Edna Mode. All in all, I think The Incredibles 2 was good, especially with some really fun moments and exquisite animation, but not great. It will never surpass its predecessor the way Toy Story 2 outshone Toy Story. It suffers from the same kinds of issues facing most superhero movies that are out right now: too large a scope, a glazing over of its characters, and a subpar story. The reason why The Incredibles was so good as a pre-MCU superhero movie was that its main villain, Syndrome, was a fanboy-turned-villain! But this time around, the villain is… tech? Screens? Who fucking knows (I do, because the real villain was Bob’s hypermasculine tendencies).
P.S. The short film that plays before The Incredibles 2 is Domee Shi’s Bao about a Chinese mother with empty-nest syndrome. I don’t know about you but I got the story right away, but apparently white people did not? I’ve seen Bao get a lot of flack online for being “weird” mostly by white viewers. What people need to realize is that stories like Bao are not made for everyone! And certainly not for white people. That being said, I thought Bao was adorable up until the point the dumpling started growing a goatee and I audibly groaned in the theater because I knew the little dumpling would grow up to be a Reddit MRAsian (Men’s Rights Activist Asian).