There’s a certain arrogance in picking up where you left off 14 years after your original cartoon. Does Disney imagine the world is so familiar with The Incredibles, that we’ve all got a copy on our shelf somewhere, that we’ve all watched it so many times, with our imaginary children, that we can just simply go back to where we were 14 years ago, without so much as a re-watch? Well that is indeed the very assumption that kick starts Brad Bird’s belated sequel to his inconsequential hit of yesteryear.
But perhaps you are a fan of the Incredibles, and perhaps you have seen it multiple times. Maybe you know every corporate rubberstamped joke, every bit of carefully programmed action, and all those meticulously plotted, but curiously plastic family relationships that were tested to destruction by committee before being incorporated into the screenplay, with the final draft run through Disney Pixar’s demographicaliser, then sanitiser, before being pre-visualised, then rendered, and shunted into cinemas for the delectation of your undemanding offspring, and even less demanding inner child.
So here we are 14 years on, and here’s another pitch perfect, finely graded, meticulously designed, deftly scripted, moderately entertaining family animation. The emphasis must indeed be on family, for this is the turgid value, the ideological pivot, that shapes and reinforces every Pixar movie, and surely will until the dawn of the next age.
There’s nothing wrong with Incredibles 2, nothing offensive, no discernible defect, unless you consider a movie in which every beat, line, visual gag, and character arc, has a predictable, rote, mechanical quality, to be defective. The one thing absent from these movies, a by-product of their ontology, such is the time it takes for the movie to be made, and remade as appropriate, once the suits have seen a rough animatic, are all the qualities that characterise the very best films. I speak of course of spontaneity, mischief, an agitating wit, the sense that one could and will be surprised.
Adults and children alike of course will love Incredibles 2, there is nothing in it designed to offend or challenge. Plot threads from the first film are neatly tied off, the arc of the various family members is advanced, and it ends on the note of open-ended optimism. In short – it is a well-constructed and professionally composed sequel. But if we’re not very careful, with one eye on Disney’s acquisition of every studio, and with it every piece of intellectual property in the cinematic universe, Incredibles 2 could also be the future, a future in which every movie is polished but beige, beautiful but bland, fun but fawning, amusing but dull. At least the accompanying short has a little bite – the story of a man whose dim sum comes to life, a cute and adorable character that he eventually eats in order to stop it leaving. That’s the kind of anarchic edge missing from the Incredibles sequel.