‘Incredibles 2’ – Superheroes with little inner spark

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

We all know those t-shirts: “My parents went to Hawaii/Venice/Chicago and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

The t-shirt for “Incredibles 2” should read: “It took 14 years to make a sequel and all we got was this lousy movie?”

Most movie-goers have been wild about “Incredibles 2,” but then they were wild about “The Incredibles” as well.

"Incredibles 2"

“Incredibles 2”

Me? Not so much. So if you loved the original, then you should pretty much skip this review.

Though in real time, it’s been almost a decade and a half, in “Incredibles” time, it’s been just a few minutes.  The second movie picks up pretty much right where the first one left off.

Superheroes are still personas non grata. The Parr family, aka, Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunt), daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell), son  Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack still live in a decrepit motel. They still save the world despite the world’s decided lack of appreciation.

But times are ever-so-slightly changing. Wealthy superhero aficionado Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his tech-savvy sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener) have plans to, well, re-brand the superhero brand. The public is only seeing the collateral damage of their derring-do; it needs to see the do-gooding and the thrills.

Here’s the catch: Winston and Evelyn want to build their brand around Elastigirl. She’s ecstatic. Hubby is…homebound.  Which means, alas, an endless round of Dopey Domestic Dad jokes that were stale (at best) when “Mr. Mom” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” trotted them out decades ago.

Of course, as their choice of the Missus might suggest, something’s amiss. And it has to do with a lot more than the nefarious schemes of the resident supervillain, Screenslaver.

Writer/director Brad Bird has made two of the best animated features in recent memory: “The Iron Giant” and “Ratatouille.”

"Incredibles 2"

“Incredibles 2”

But something in him (or me) goes brain-dead when it comes to the “Incredibles” movies. They have no inner spark.

Perhaps he gets too distracted by his ’60 settings.  Yeah, it’s neat that the house the Incredibles move into looks like Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion circa 1967 (minus the underwater Playmate Grotto), but the gag has no resonance. And if I want to watch an old James Bond movie, I’ll rent one (Much to my astonishment, I wrote myself the exact same note while watching “The Incredibles;” this time, I could add the ‘60s sci-fi series, “The Outer Limits.”)

Still, there’s some good stuff, too. The animation is often breathtaking. The revelation of Jack-Jack’s seemingly limitless powers is a lot of fun. And Bird’s wit can be wicked. A small flotilla of superheroes is introduced (for plot reasons I can’t reveal).

Among them is Reflux, who elicits the query, “Medical condition or superhero? You decide.”

 

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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