Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review: "The Incredibles 2"

“I don’t like the parts where they talk, talk, talk, but I do like the parts where they fight!”

That’s the review my 4-year-old gives of “Incredibles 2,” and I couldn’t put it any better myself. But I’ll try, given I’m supposed to be the professional at this.

These days it seems like any movie that makes half a buck gets a sequel, even when it’s totally unnecessary. (Oh hai, “Pacific Rim Uprising.” We weren’t talking about you, I swear.) But “The Incredibles,” the one Pixar animated film that seemed to beg for a follow-up, was left curiously lying fallow for nearly a decade-and-a-half

(And you're eyes aren't deceiving you; the first movie was "The" Incredibles, while the second drops the the. Fooled me at first, too.)

Writer/director Brad Bird was busy making the best of the “Mission: Impossible” movies and the well-meaning but disappointing passion project, “Tomorrowland.” So here was a chance to get back to his heyday.

Problem is, the Brad Bird of 2018 seems to have forgotten how to tell stories about a family of superheroes with the same aplomb. “The Incredibles” was terrific because the storytelling seemed so effortless. Characters were sharp-edged and vibrant. The plot unspooled without pretense or hurry, giving us zingy action scenes but also some hefty themes about how the world is a dangerous place.

“Incredibles 2” is certainly very entertaining, but it doesn’t have the polish or style of its predecessor. Dialogue scenes, as my almost-kindergartner acutely observed, go on waaaaayyy longer than they need to, and don’t further the characters or build the mood.

There’s also a weird sitcom-y feel to this. The Parr family often gets bogged down in minutia, like tackling speedster Dash’s (Huck Milner) “new math” homework, or which suit stretchy mom Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) is wearing or when invisible daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) has her date with her dreamy classmate, Tony.

And someone’s always on baby-watching duty for little Jack Jack, the tantrum-prone tyke who showed all sorts of weird, crazy powers in the last movie, and tries a few more new ones on for size. Bird actually makes a joke of this, as the Parrs literally hand off the baby to each other in the middle of a fight, and supremely Eurotrash designer-to-the-supers Edna Mode (voiced by Bird himself) even gets a spell watching over him.

This one picks up right where the last movie left off. Super-heroes were outlawed, at least publically, 15 years ago, but now Mr. Incredible, the strongman patriarch voiced by Craig T. Nelson, and his family are back in the limelight. This draws the attention of telecommunications tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who wants to make supers legal again, with the help of his inventor genius sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener).

Mr. Incredible’s smashy-smashy M.O. isn’t the most favorable for the P.R. push, so Elastigirl finds herself in the limelight while hubby is stuck at home -- a fancy new one, at that -- dealing with the kids. This gives us a chance to fully explore her capabilities in a way the last movie did not. She even gets her own personalized motorcycle that can separate into two piece to maximize her powers, which are given full display in a match against a runaway train.

The baddie is Screenslaver, a mysterious super-hater who uses television screens to hypnotize people into doing his bidding.

Too-cool Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) is back, still stuck in wingman mode -- how about he gets starring role in a short or something? There is also a gaggle of new, (mostly) younger hero wannabes who are inspired by Elastigirl to take a step forward. The most notable is Void (Sophia Bush), who can create interdimensional portals.

I enjoyed myself, but “Incredibles 2” just doesn’t have the verve and zip of the first one. For some strange reason, even though no time has passed between movies, Mr. Incredible is drawn to look much aged, with deep creases in his face and baggy eyes. It’s almost like watching a franchise get old before our eyes.

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