Holiday fare at your local multiplex, and a few art house cinemas too hoping to cash in on this summer’s biggest grossing family film by pushing out superior work. Hard to believe the first The Incredibles was released in 2004, fourteen years ago before every film out of Hollywood was a Marvel Comic action hero, this latest Incredibles bigger, brighter, and a lot brasher.
It’s a Pixar animation – you’re not supposed to call them cartoons any longer, though that’s what they are – and Pixar guarantees high quality visuals and script. This one arrives garlanded with four or five stars and effusive praise from British critics and reviewers. I shall come clean immediately to say I step out of line.
This follow-up to the first Incredibles is sub-Bond – a megalomania wants to take over the world, and sub Mission Impossible – our heroes do a series of way, way over-the-top stunts to stop Screen Slaver the villain succeeding in his plan to … well, I confess I don’t know what, so confusing and peremptory is the plot. In fact, the film is one long cacophony of nothingness.
Almost every contemporary television commercial cliché is thrown into the mix: a courageous but not too bright father, a mother who needs to be freed from domestic drudgery, a rebellious daughter with surprise, surprise, boyfriend troubles, a naughty son, and a gifted baby.
The storyline is lost for originality, something of a shock from the art form’s two best pioneers, Brad Bird and John Lasseter. (More on them later.)
The Incredibles family live in quiet, sedate but frustrating urban domesticity. For people with super human powers, mowing the lawn, washing dishes, fixing the roof and ironing are dull, dull, dull. Each new day brings a deeper sense of ennui than the last.
The State has forbidden all superheroes – there’s an unaccountable number living in the city – to practice their strengths and hyper skills under pain of imprisonment. Quite how they can be kept locked in a cell is not explained. This law is rigorously enforced because superheroes do tremendous damage to the material fabric of their environment – ripped up roads, broken bridges, collapses skyscrapers, in their race to catch big time criminals.
The actors voices the characters do their best yet something is lost in the welter of action sequences that amount to nothing. And the plot of an advertising executive with a plan to rehabilitate superheroes in the public mind is weak and implausible.
I had other quibbles. The story takes place in a mythical 1960s which is intended to give the artwork a rosy, nostalgic glow. The timing of the animation is not good, not with Trump claiming he’s the man to ‘make America great again’. The creators can’t have incorporated Trump’s toxic popularism because an animation takes years to make, yet his popcorn politics sit in every dialogue sequence.
That refrain is repeated throughout the story, almost casually thrown around, and I wonder if the movie is aimed at a certain basic Trumpian mentality. Also, by making the daughter, Elastigirl, no more than an extension of her family, Incredibles 2 falls into the trap of presenting the female as the whinging loser in family society. The story does not threaten the male order.
Add to all that Brad Bird’s denial that his story is a nod to the #MeToo generation, and John Lasseter’s sudden departure from Disney, a co-founder of Pixar animation, his parting of the ways because of the ‘#MeToo‘ backlash, and you can’t help but think their unconscious misogyny is all there on the screen.
All in all, I was disappointed to the extent that I felt the work is cinematically a $200 million turkey despite its burgeoning box office receipts. The best thing about Incredibles 2 is the ten minute cartoon that precedes it, Bao, about a childless Chinese woman who falls in love with one of his own handmade dumplings.
- STAR RATING: One star
- Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Winston Deavor
- Director: Brad Bird
- Writer: Brad Bird
- Photographer: Mayar Abousaeedi, Erik Smitt
- Composer: Michael Giacchino
- Duration: 1 hour 58 minutes
- RATING CRITERIA
- 5 plus: potential classic, innovative. 5: outstanding. 4: excellent. 3.5: excellent but flawed. 3: very good if formulaic. 2: straight to DVD. 1: crap; why did they bother?