It has been 24 hours since I sat down in the leather seats of Indy's downtown Indy IMAX Theatre at the Indiana State Museum to check out Incredibles 2.
I can't stop thinking about it.
I can't stop thinking about Academy Award winner Michael Giacchino's horrendous score, a symphonic sledgehammer of sounds that that is relentlessly overwhelming for nearly every single minute of the film's 118-minute running time.
I can't stop thinking about a story that feels haphazardly constructed, scene-after-scene hanging precariously like that one remaining Jenga block that you hope will keep everything standing but deep down you know is gonna' cause it all to collapse.
I can't stop thinking about the film's unnecessarily long 118-minute running time, far too long with far too little of a payoff.
You know what I can't stop thinking about?
My most vivid memory of Incredibles 2, and this is a potential spoiler, is the image I was confronted with time and time and time again of Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile), otherwise known as infant Parr, who's not so surprisingly discovered to have powers such as shooting fireballs and lasers from his eyes and, quite literally, turning into an animated fireball of sorts every single time he gets angry.
He's an infant. That happens a lot.
After a 14 year wait, though to be honest I haven't really been waiting, Disney/Pixar finally serves up a sequel to the overwhelming successful The Incredibles and all I can think about is Jack-Jack. Burning. Time and again. Sometimes, while going up against a semi-rabid raccoon and other times simply over the course of an ordinary day at home with the family as they quickly discover that Jack-Jack is seriously gifted with "powers."
Of course, I never quite caught on why the powers were a surprise. After all, both parents have powers and the other two children have powers. Why wouldn't Jack-Jack have powers?
But I digress.
Now then, I'm fully aware that I'm in the minority here. Critics are raving. Adults leaving the screening were offering abundant praise. Multiple children that I spoke with after the film professed their love for it, though it was rather interesting that very few could actually offer a reason for that love.
But yeah, I'm in the minority.
I dunno. Maybe it's the Paddington 2 effect. Maybe it's the realization, or at least the firmly held belief, that Incredibles 2 is frivolously awful storytelling that caters to the ADD world in which most American children are raised where entertainment is found on the computer screen or the television screen or the movie screen but never, or almost never, in the stories being told or the relationships being developed or in the lessons being taught.
In a world where Paddington 2 is nearly a masterpiece, Incredibles 2 feels downright demeaning to children and despite a few solid laughs along the way and a handful of genuinely enjoyable scenes it's a film that I genuinely hated watching for a good majority of its 118-minute running time.
The film picks up not long after The Incredibles ended. It's a world where superheroes have now been banned largely because of the chaos they create, a world that leaves the Parr family searching for what's next on their journey. Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and their kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner, replacing Spencer Fox) and Jack-Jack have been forced out of the superhero biz and potentially into the very real working world.
All appears lost until longtime family friend Fro-Zone (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up at the door with an offer from Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a tech billionaire with a vision of restoring superheroes to their rightful place of honor with the help of his more creative sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener). Of course, before the mission can be accomplished a new villain surfaces, Screenslaver, whose ability to hypnotize people into committing violent acts via a computer screen threatens to derail Deavor's plans.
There are moments when Incredibles 2 is genuinely inspired, most notably when Deavor's plan involves using Elastigirl front and center instead of Mr. Incredible because Mr. Incredible's work, according to a detailed financial analysis, tends to be far messier and more expensive. So, while Elastigirl's off trying to save the future of superheroes, dad is left home to deal with Dash's new math, Violet's first romance, and Jack-Jack's spontaneous combustion.
When The Incredibles came out 14 years ago, it was considered an instant classic from Pixar, a magnificently animated motion picture with a story that was equally as magnificent even for those of us, myself included, who thought its praise was just a tad too lofty. The film's themes came alive even amidst the action with the familial relationships front-and-center alongside lessons in humility, work and loyalty all shining brightly. When you left the theater, you wanted to see it again because you fell in love with these characters and their relationships and the ways in which action and story were so beautifully intertwined.
Incredibles 2, even without my significant concerns about the children in peril, simply isn't as good a film. With hints of Blade Runner and James Bond and a retro-styled animated set design that continues to resemble The Jetsons on steriods, Incredibles 2 feels like a film that Disney wanted to happen rather than a film that developed authentically and truly needed to happen. Even the film's most entertaining sequences feel less spontaneous and more forced, while the familial bonds that were so incredibly special in the original feel mostly functional at this point. There's also a scene probably 3/4 of the way through the film that is so dizzying and psychedelic that I thought I was in Studio 54 and I also thought to myself "If anyone here has seizures, that's sure going to trigger them." You'll know the scene when you see it.
The vocal work is strong across the board. Both Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter shine once again, Nelson's extraordinary rhythms tapping once again into themes of ego as his own machismo is put on the back burner while his wife is able to shine. Likewise, Holly Hunter works wonders as a woman who has spent most of her life serving humanity and serving others but never quite getting the credit she deserves. Samuel L. Jackson, as Fro-Zone, is mostly wasted here but it's nearly impossible to waste an inspired Jackson and he still gives us an immense amount of fun. The same is true for both Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener, the latter finding emotional resonance in a character who would seldom be offered as much by most actresses. Truthfully, while there's weakly drawn characters, including an entertaining but unnecessary return of Edna Mode (voiced by Bird himself), even the film's most weakly drawn characters have times to shine.
Truthfully, most of you will absolutely be overjoyed with Incredibles 2 with the big debate likely being whether or not you consider it superior to its predecessor.
It's not, but I'll be perfectly happy if you find it so.
While I couldn't possibly completely trash Incredibles 2 with its flaming babies, children in peril, and overwhelming score that left me feeling as in disarray as I did while listening to Gerard Butler screechingly sing in Phantom of the Opera, I simply can't that there's anything incredible about Incredibles 2.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic