Brad Bird's Incredibles 2 is about to hit theaters, and the critics are saying it's a good-to-fantastic work of animated film. The only big question, though, is if this sequel soars to the same heights as its predecessor.
Critics agree that baby Jack-Jack routinely steals the show, and that the visual aesthetic of the film is so strong that modern superhero movies have a lot to learn. On the downside, as is the case with sequels, the film doesn't feel as inventive, recycling some tropes from the first movie.
At Vulture, David Edelstein's review is mostly positive, praising the stylistic flourishes in Incredibles 2, which separate it from chaotic, messy contemporaries.
"As with everything else, Bird’s timing makes even what’s expected galvanically funny and what’s unexpected volcanically so." — David Edelstein, Vulture
"It’s proof that someone (not anyone, mainly Bird) can make a Marvel-type movie that’s fleet and shapely, with action sequences rich in style rather than tumult. He’s a crackerjack filmmaker first and a marvelous animator a close second, and he has made the jazziest hybrid in years."
"Wonderful to hear Sarah Vowell and her euphonious quack as the irritable Violet, the quintessential brilliant but ever-stricken and angry teenage girl. ('Boys are jerks and superheroes suck. I renounce them.')"
"As with everything else, Bird’s timing makes even what’s expected galvanically funny and what’s unexpected volcanically so."
"Born in 1955, Bird thinks in tropes that had probably their fullest expression in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, The Jetsons — the Eisenhower-era nuclear family plus neat retro-futurist devices."
Over at Variety, Owen Gleiberman's frustration with a lack of innovation tints his review.
"Brad Bird, who once again voices Edna the sawed-off Teutonic fashionista, hasn’t lost his wizardly gift for orchestrating a sight gag." — Owen Gleiberman, Variety
"It’s got a touch of the first film’s let’s-try-it-on spirit, and it’s a perfectly snappy and chucklesome and heartfelt entertainment, with little retro felicities you latch onto,"
"Brad Bird, who once again voices Edna the sawed-off Teutonic fashionista, hasn’t lost his wizardly gift for orchestrating a sight gag. The Parrs’ youngest child, Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile), with his infant tuft of hair that’s like a single devil horn, revealed his superpower near the end of “The Incredibles” (when he caught fire and morphed into a purple ogre), and in Incredibles 2 he’s got that and other powers to spare, from levitation to laser vision. Is he the film’s reigning crowd-pleaser? You bet."
"Something is missing: the thrill of discovery — the crucial sensation that the movie is taking us someplace we haven’t been."
"What was organic, and even obsessive, in the first outing comes off as pat and elaborate formula here. The new movie, energized as it is, too often feels like warmed-over sloppy seconds, with a what-do-we-do-now? riff that turns into an overly on-the-nose plot."
At EW, Darren Franich's review is mostly positive, though he does find bones to pick with the film's structure.
"Bird’s made the weirdest Pixar movie ever, revolutionary and retro, an anti-authoritarian ode to good parenting." — Darren Franich, EW
"These are the best superhero action sequences in our superhero-drowned decade. You figured Bird might be trepidatious returning to this material. Since 2004, there have been untold eons of comic book heroism adapted to the big screen, two Fantastic Fours, three different Spider-Men, the ongoing threat of a Jared Leto-Joker film. But the writer-director brings a snazzy Pop Art kineticism to his heroes' journey."
"The thrills are always there, and you can enjoy the jazzy Michael Giacchino score, the sweet stay-at-home-Dad gags. But don’t let the dazzle fool you. Bird’s made the weirdest Pixar movie ever, revolutionary and retro, an anti-authoritarian ode to good parenting."
"A key plot turn is lifted right from the original Incredibles, requiring a villainous motivation more described than felt. It just about breaks the final act of the film, and contributes to the feeling that Incredibles 2 is more of an expansion than a continuation."
"The final act’s revelations confuse and deflate much of this. What we learn about the villain is unconvincing, and the smash-up climax races backward from the earlier complexity, devolving to the family-together fun of the first Incredibles."
In his review for USA Today, Brian Truitt echoes the common sentiment that Incredibles 2 is good, but doesn't match its predecessor.
"Every scene involving Jack-Jack is a complete joy, and Bird brilliantly captures the completely exhausting experience of dealing with a newborn." — Brian Truitt, USA Today
"Every scene involving Jack-Jack is a complete joy, and Bird brilliantly captures the completely exhausting experience of dealing with a newborn — every parent can relate to Mr. Incredible falling asleep standing up or Jack-Jack smacking his dad when Bob dozes off while reading a bedtime book."
"Pixar doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to sequels, but this follow-up surpasses most everything without Toy Story in the title."
"The animation is stellar and detailed in excellent action sequences, Michael Giacchino’s score swings harder than ever, and the first film’s family-friendly warmth is just as appealing now as it was then …"
"... even if Incredibles 2 isn’t totally incredible itself."
Scott Tobias' review for The Guardian notes that while the movie's sense of humor and style are strong, it's a little low on new ideas.
"The clean zip of Pixar animation feels exhilaratingly rare, like a lost language rediscovered." — Scott Tobias, The Guardian
"The introduction of new Z-grade heroes – like Reflux, an old man with corrosive stomach acid, and Crusher, a burly dope who can crumple but not un-crumple – adds more variety and comedy to the mix."
"Compared to the CGI chaos that tends to engulf DCEU and MCU movies, especially in crossover teamups, the clean zip of Pixar animation feels exhilaratingly rare, like a lost language rediscovered."
"Not that every idea is a novel one. There’s no more exhausted concept than a society that rejects superheroes for doing more harm than good, and no easier sentiment than deriding politicians for not understanding 'people who do right.'"