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August 18, 2018

Saturday Evening Movie Thread [Guest Blogger: Moviegique]

We are going to try to expand the topics a bit for this time slot, so it is entirely possible that you will see fishing, Yoko Ono, macramé, Mechanical Engineering 228: Shelf Design, hacky-sack, the psycho-sexual politics of veganism, and other interesting topics. Or not.

It was an inauspicious start to "Incredibles 2" where some people who made the film (actors, in this case) come out before the movie to tell you how much you're going to like the movie that you paid for and are waiting to see. It feels positively needy. But "Coco" turned out okay,

The next thing that hits you—hard—is that they're all 15 years older. I don't know if Holly Hunter smokes, but her voice has gone from a charming whiskey-soaked Southern twang to...your grandmother. Craig T. Nelson is no spring chicken either. Writer/director Brad Bird's Edna Mode is fine, but she was an old lady all along. And while this may not bug most people, I sorely felt the absence of the late Bud Luckey (who plays agent Rick Dickey, the guy in charge in keeping Mr. Incredible employed, and the narrator of the charming "Boundin'" short that played before the first "Incredibles").



The political correctness of the film is the next bump on this ride. I would argue that the first movie, while a philosophical muddle, was at least not overly SJW. To elaborate it helps to get a light summary of the story:

We begin at the exact end of the previous movie with the Underminer running amok and our newly united super family ready to face him together! Except this is a new movie and we need a new conflict, so let's pretend nothing was resolved by the last movie—the number one way sequels screw up their classic origins—and let's use the same conflict again, to wit, the Parrs are at each others' throats and superheroes are still illegal. The Incredibles defeat the Underminer, but heroism backfires due to collateral damage.

The Parrs are broke because the government can't get them jobs any more.
A reprieve comes in the form of a Jobs/Wosniak-style brother-sister team who assure the Parrs that if they wear body cams people can see what more than just the damage. They can use this to sway public opinion and get supers de-criminalized. Because Mr. Incredible tends toward the more destructive, Elastigirl will be the pilot, and her target is the mind-controlling Screenslaver. Bob will stay home and take care of Jack-Jack.

The "Mr. Mom" bit was reasonably fresh when Michael Keaton did it in 1983, and it doesn't have to be the case that this kind of storyline is SJW, but the Bob Parr of this movie is more than just a middle-aged man looking to relive his glory days: He's borderline psychotic, usually on the verge of a murderous rage. When his wife tells his how well the crime-fighting is going, he's so riddled with envy, his heroism is that he is actually able to congratulate her.

Mr. Incredible in one of his happier moments.


He's completely unable to do the house-husband thing at first. About the time I was starting to ready to check out completely, he has a good moment and I thought, "OK, at least he's not a complete boob." Except that the next scene, he's back to being utterly overwhelmed. It doesn't help that Elastigirl's feistiness gets knocked into 12th gear here.
She's utterly unsympathetic to Bob, with only a token nod toward missing the biggest moments of her baby's life.

Once you notice one of these things, they start to pile up fast. In the brother-sister team, for example, it's the sister who's the world-wise Wozniak (technical wizard), and the brother who's the bubble-headed Jobs. The sensible Violet is victimized by her father's blundering attempts to help while Dash is basically random uncontrolled impulsive destructiveness.

Then there's the second string heroes. In the first movie there's a quick run-through of all the (murdered) super-heroes? You probably didn't think anything of it, but all those characters were what you might call "conventionally attractive" and even "rather idealized". In this movie, all of the heroes (apart from the Parrs and Frozone) are what Diversity & Comics would call alt-lifestyle-freakazoids, except for the one white male who's old and has irritable bowel syndrome for his power. The most prominent wannabe hero even sports the classic "mentally disturbed" hairstyle: blue and shaved on one side.

They look like a latex fetish convention.

Who WOULDN'T wanna look like these guys?


Bird, whom I have loved since his early days on the "Simpsons" and "The Critic" was wrong to bristle at the Twitter dad who said his kid had trouble sitting still during the talky parts. There are two lengthy, pointless speeches that I think a more engaged John Lasseter would've gently guided Bird away from. At 2:05, it's too long for woke, girl-power speeches which literally do nothing to advance the plot.

All this I could actually overlook, but the story is as rote as they come. The villain is supposed to be a surprise, but it's tipped very early on. Elastigirl misses so many obvious cues as to what's going on—mind control is the hoariest of superhero clichés—she ends up looking dumb. This is not coincidental.

Everybody looks fine in here!

I've often said that critics have a gut reaction to a film, like everyone else, and then invent "reasons" to "explain" that feeling, much like people do with politics. With SJW-based fiction (not exclusively, but especially), we see artists desiring to create specific outcomes played out by certain demographics, and retrofitting stories completely to make those things happen—however little sense it ends up making.

This happens big and small throughout "The Incredibles 2", as when Violet's character arc shows her accepting the possibility that a teenage girl might occasionally, maybe, sometimes when there's no other option, be suited to babysitting.

The action is competent, the final set piece is solid, and there are a few good gags, but we learn nothing new about our heroes. The art is good, of course, and Michael Giacchino's score is great but we didn't hate it, but we couldn't muster more than a "meh".

But we were just marking time before the real feature: A Chinese thriller about the no-holds-barred world of underground rock-scissors-paper.

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posted by CBD at 07:02 PM

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