"Incredibles 2", the sequel to the beloved Pixar property, has finally arrived after a fourteen-year wait. One would hope that the reason for the lengthy gap between films was to ensure that the sequel lived up to the standards of the original. Unfortunately, writer/director Brad Bird takes the path of least resistance and delivers a blatant cash-grab. Like "Monsters University", "Finding Dory", and the "Cars" sequels before it, "Incredibles 2" joins the growing pile of forgettable passing diversions from Pixar.
The film picks up moments after the end of the first film, with the superpowered Parr family facing off against the subterranean villain, the Underminer. Unfortunately, the villain gets away, leaving the family in dire straits. Superheroes are still illegal, and the superhero relocation program is being shut down. This leaves the super-family with little option but to return to normal society and ignore their natural abilities. Enter the Deavor siblings (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener), a pair of billionaire industrialists who approach Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elasti-Girl (Holly Hunter), and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) with a plan to make superheroes legal again. Deavor wants to reintroduce superheroes into the spotlight in the hopes of changing public opinion, determined that Elasti-Girl is the right hero to spearhead this movement.
With Elasti-Girl out in the field, Mr. Incredible is left to take care of the kids. This leads to a bloated series of scenes that comprise a bulk of the movie, unfolding without any urgency or real sense of direction. Mr. Incredible struggles to be a stay-at-home father, and hijinks ensue. Violet is mad because a boy she has a crush on had his mind wiped (and thus any memory of her) by the government following the Underminer fight, which she blames on Mr. Incredible. Jack-Jack's powers are still unpredictable, and he is a nuisance to wrangle. Dash is just an annoying kid. These scenes lack the relatable family dynamic of the original film, feeling more like a repetitive series of "What if X character did this?" moments. Meanwhile, Elasti-Girl gets wrapped up in a case involving the mysterious Screenslaver, a villain with the power to control minds (and, presumably, give the audience seizures) using flickering hypnotic screen displays. This storyline is oddly disconnected from the parts with the rest of the Parr family, further straying from the family dynamics that made the original great.
When the two disparate stories finally intersect, it is highly implausible. The Screenslaver's true identity and motivation make little sense, and their master plan is ridiculous. They plan to keep superheroes illegal by gathering a bunch of them and mind-controlling the heroes to crash a boat. Sure, okay, I guess. If nothing else, the third act at least benefits from some creative action scenes, even if there is minimal emotional investment in anything going. Several new superheroes are introduced during the Elasti-Girl storyline, and they all get a chance to show off their powers during the final fight in a series of mildly funny setups. By the time everything wraps up neatly at the end, it becomes apparent the movie had nothing else to offer than intermittent one-note gags.
Like most Pixar sequels, "Incredibles 2" is a harmless diversion in the moment but has no long-term staying power. As is to be expected from Pixar, the film looks gorgeous. The animation in the original film has aged awkwardly, as CG animation frequently does, but the sequel is suitably fresh and bright. There may not be much of substance going on, but at least there is plenty of neat animation and a fun 1960's atmosphere to look at. This is a sequel that feels like an extended coda, never adding anything new or meaningful to the original. Pixar is resting on its laurels for easy money, but even when they phone it in the result is better than most family movies.