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The one element distinguishing Incredibles 2 from the similarly wan sequels flooding the summer movie season is its zippy, often gorgeous animation.

Handout

  • Incredibles 2
  • Written and directed by: Brad Bird
  • Featuring the voices of: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, and Bob Odenkirk
  • Classification: PG; 118 minutes

rating

This past weekend, a giant baby took over Toronto. No, not that baby – he was busy causing havoc in Charlevoix, Quebec – but a literal giant infant. One made of plastic, inflated with hot air and resembling Jack-Jack Parr, the adorably super-powered tyke featured in the new Pixar film, Incredibles 2.

Positioned in a west-end parking lot, the 40-foot-tall promotional device was equal parts perplexing (poor Jack-Jack was tethered to the ground with a dozen incongruous black ropes, creating a scene familiar to fans of 50 Shades of Grey) and prosaic. Sure, another enormous marketing activation from the fine folks at corporate behemoth Disney. Why not, whatever.

But the odd and completely unnecessary PR – is there a moviegoer on Earth whose box-office decisions will be swayed by a giant balloon? – is also emblematic of the film it is promoting. Incredibles 2 (not ”The Incredibles 2,” as definite articles are strictly pre-Facebook) is big, annoying and mostly, pointless.

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Although it’s been 14 years since writer-director Brad Bird’s The Incredibles hit theatres, the sequel picks up not two minutes after the events of the first: The Parr family, having shed any government-bred stigma over their superpowers, are back to fighting evildoers in their 1960s-ish all-American metropolis. The film’s kick-off set-piece finds the clan – strongman father Bob/Mr. Incredible, stretchy mom Helen/Elastigirl, invisible eldest daughter Violet, super-fast middle son Dash and the multitalented and aforementioned Jack – attempting to stop a runaway vehicle of destruction before it hits City Hall, mostly succeeding.

After witnessing the family’s derring-do and the public’s warm reaction to the antics, telecommunications mogul and superhero superfan Winston Deavor (voiced with just the right amount of enthusiastic smarm by Bob Odenkirk) offers the Parrs a unique opportunity: Allow him to market the family’s heroics for a captivated audience and help convince the federal government to reconsider its ban on those with “special abilities.” But to offer a friendlier, less-destructive face for this initiative, Deavor wants to test-run his plan with Elastigirl alone – leaving the alpha Mr. Incredible (a weary but fun Craig T. Nelson) to play homemaker.

There is a slice of intriguing social commentary here, with Bird (back writing and directing) seemingly keen on examining the emotional labour that keeps a family together. But that potentially insightful thread gets lost as Bird competes to satisfy the requirements of sequels – louder, bigger, longer, but not necessarily better. As a result, Bird lightly riffs on the idea of what it means to run a household in a Mr. Mom-ish fashion, when he should in fact be interrogating it.

Pixar may produce films aimed at children, but the Disney animation arm has proven before that it can fit big, complex ideas into shiny, squeaky-clean packages. Bird in particular has a history of making films with intellectual rigor – take the Objectivist fervor he brought to his work on the first Incredibles, as well as The Iron Giant and Ratatouille. The director’s Ayn Rand-ian leanings are queasy – and near toxic, in the case of his last project, Tomorrowland – but at least they are concepts and philosophies worth arguing about. Here, Bird’s effort feels overstuffed with corporate obligations and hollow of creative and intellectual ambition – it is a film searching for an idea, and vice versa.

This aimlessness is best reflected in Bird’s shrug of a plot. Like its central hero Elastigirl (voiced with the delightful drawl of Holly Hunter), the narrative of Incredibles 2 quickly stretches itself thin. Just like the first film, the story pivots on a family struggling to stay together but separated because of the forces of the outside world. This entry’s villain, revealed in a flat third-act twist, is a rehash of the first film’s antagonist Syndrome – another average human who believes that super-powered folk have no place lording their gifts over the world (as with Black Panther’s infinitely more charismatic Killmonger, the bad guy here isn’t exactly wrong). Even the action feels repetitive. The stakes are never in question, the damage is infinitely collateral and the film’s grand finale lazily echoes its very beginning, with the Parrs again forced to stop one huge thing from hitting another huge thing.

Fortunately, the one element distinguishing Incredibles 2 from the similarly wan sequels flooding the summer movie season is its zippy, often gorgeous animation. Everything in Bird’s world pops with a bright retro charm that is irresistible. The water and hair effects are especially astounding, a technical feat that Bird exploits nicely when he has Violet quickly shake out her wet hair. The split-second moment is like glimpsing the future of animation, where the real and the unreal fold into each other.

Still, by the time Violet and the rest of her family fall into predictable third-act tropes, Incredibles 2 feels more itchy than revolutionary. Nothing against the occasional zip-zam-pow theatrics of the superhero movie, but the genre is quickly becoming an invasive species. The Incredibles succeeded by balancing domestic drama and attentive characterization with the expected comic-book explosions. Here, nearly everything is drowned out by the clang of Disney’s superhero industrial complex machinery.

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That deafening noise will likely be extraordinarily profitable, though, and it is a good bet that deep inside Pixar’s offices, Incredibles 3 is in development. Unlike that giant Jack-Jack balloon, Hollywood’s franchise mentality is a tricky thing to deflate.

MEET PIXAR’S

LUCKY CHARM

You wouldn't think that an actor best known for his work on a sitcom about

a bar would be family-friendly material. Yet John Ratzenberger, of Cheers fame, has participated in every single Pixar feature film to date, starting with 1995's

Toy Story and leading up through this week's release of Incredibles 2. Pixar writer and producer Andrew Stanton

said that his staff had so much fun

collaborating with Ratzenberger on the first Toy Story media tour that they decided to work with the erstwhile Cliff Clavin as much as possible. Pixar director Pete Docter, meanwhile, thinks that Ratzenberger's vocal work is one of a kind. "He's someone so clear, I know that guy after only two lines of dialogue," the Inside Out and Monsters, Inc., director said. "Having him in every film is like our Hitchcock cameo."

To mark the release of Incredibles 2,

The Globe presents a look at just how large a part Ratzenberger played

in Pixar's success.

Hamm, the piggy bank

Toy Story, 1995

(also in Toy Story 2 , 1999

and Toy Story 3, 2010)

P.T. Flea

A Bug’s Life, 1998

School of moonfish

and Bill the butterflyfish

Finding Nemo, 2003

(also in Finding Dory,

2016)

Yeti/Abominable

Snowman

Monsters, Inc., 2001

(also in Monsters

University, 2013)

Mack

Cars, 2006

(also in Cars 2, 2011,

and Cars 3, 2017)

Mustafa

Ratatouille, 2007

John, ship passenger

WALL•E, 2008

Tom,

construction foreman

Up, 2009

Fritz, Inside Out, 2015

Earl, The Good Dinosaur,

2015

Gordon, the guard

Brave, 2012

Juan Ortodoncia,

Coco, 2017

The Underminer

Incredibles 2, 2018

(also in The Incredibles,

2004)

TRISH McALASTER / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

MEET PIXAR’S

LUCKY CHARM

You wouldn't think that an actor best known for his work on a sitcom about a bar would be family-friendly material. Yet John Ratzenberger, of Cheers fame, has participated in every single Pixar feature film to date, starting with 1995's

Toy Story and leading up through this week's release of Incredibles 2. Pixar writer and producer Andrew Stanton said that his staff had so much fun collaborating with Ratzenberger on the first Toy Story media tour that they decided to work with the erstwhile Cliff Clavin as much as possible. Pixar director Pete Docter, meanwhile, thinks that Ratzenberger's vocal work is one of a kind. "He's someone so clear, I know that guy after only two lines of dialogue," the Inside Out and Monsters, Inc., director said. "Having him in every film is like our Hitchcock cameo." To mark the release of Incredibles 2, The Globe presents a look at just how large

a part Ratzenberger played in Pixar's success.

Hamm, the piggy bank

Toy Story, 1995

(also in Toy Story 2 , 1999

and Toy Story 3, 2010)

P.T. Flea

A Bug’s Life, 1998

School of moonfish

and Bill the butterflyfish

Finding Nemo, 2003

(also in Finding Dory,

2016)

Yeti/Abominable

Snowman

Monsters, Inc., 2001

(also in Monsters

University, 2013)

Mack

Cars, 2006

(also in Cars 2, 2011,

and Cars 3, 2017)

Mustafa

Ratatouille, 2007

John, ship passenger

WALL•E, 2008

Tom,

construction foreman

Up, 2009

Fritz, Inside Out, 2015

Earl, The Good Dinosaur,

2015

Gordon, the guard

Brave, 2012

Juan Ortodoncia,

Coco, 2017

The Underminer

Incredibles 2, 2018

(also in The Incredibles,

2004)

TRISH McALASTER / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

MEET PIXAR’S LUCKY CHARM

You wouldn't think that an actor best known for his work on a sitcom about a bar would be family-friendly material. Yet John Ratzenberger, of Cheers fame,

has participated in every single Pixar feature film to date, starting with 1995's

Toy Story and leading up through this week's release of Incredibles 2. Pixar writer and producer Andrew Stanton said that his staff had so much fun collaborating with Ratzenberger on the first Toy Story media tour that they decided to work with the erstwhile Cliff Clavin as much as possible. Pixar director Pete Docter, meanwhile, thinks that Ratzenberger's vocal work is one of a kind. "He's someone so clear,

I know that guy after only two lines of dialogue," the Inside Out and Monsters, Inc., director said. "Having him in every film is like our Hitchcock cameo."

To mark the release of Incredibles 2, The Globe presents a look at just how large

a part Ratzenberger played in Pixar's success.

Hamm, the piggy bank

Toy Story, 1995

(also in Toy Story 2 , 1999

and Toy Story 3, 2010)

P.T. Flea

A Bug’s Life, 1998

Yeti/Abominable Snowman

Monsters, Inc., 2001

(also in Monsters

University, 2013)

School of moonfish

and Bill the butterflyfish

Finding Nemo, 2003

(also in Finding Dory, 2016)

Mack

Cars, 2006

(also in Cars 2, 2011,

and Cars 3, 2017)

Mustafa

Ratatouille, 2007

John, ship passenger

WALL•E, 2008

Gordon, the guard

Brave, 2012

Tom, construction foreman

Up, 2009

Fritz, Inside Out, 2015

Earl, The Good Dinosaur,

2015

Juan Ortodoncia,

Coco, 2017

The Underminer

Incredibles 2, 2018

(also in The Incredibles,

2004)

TRISH McALASTER / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Incredibles 2 opens June 15.

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