A case for the nostalgic and family-centered Incredibles 2
When Disney announced plans were in place for a long-awaited sequel to The Incredibles, I was ecstatic. I was five years old when the first movie was released; it was one of the first films I can remember seeing in theaters. So, an entire high school career after the initial announcement, and armed with the perfect excuse to buy my ticket for a PG Pixar movie, I headed to our local movie theater with my five year old brother and my own high expectations.
The Incredibles 2 is, in many ways, a superhero movie. It has the suits, the one-liners, and the action. At times, it feels overly busy. Pixar tries to do it all: media critiques, comments on the relationship between justice and the law, and witty jokes about the new-fangled education system—all while shaping a family-friendly action film of fight scenes, train crash stops, and villainous surprises. But beyond the classic outfits, the laugh-lines from everyone’s favorite off-camera wife, and witty remarks from the supersuit designer, beyond even the questions of normalcy, of living as a super, and of our increased reliance on technology across every facet of our lives, The Incredibles is at its heart a film about the human family. It is there that the film finds its strength.
In many movies our protagonist’s family remains firmly in the background; it is where he or she returns when the action ceases, and the cameras stop rolling. The Incredibles, both in the original installment and the long-awaited sequel, sets the family (not an individual member but the entire unit) at the heart of the films.
And it is not a perfect family either; the Parrs are messy, bickering, exhausted, and unsure of their place in a world that seems to resent a core piece of their identity. Bob and Helen raise their children while dealing with difficulties “real” parents face: squabbling at dinner, incomplete homework assignments, and disappearing youngest children. They fight to make the world better for their children; they want to give Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack all the choices and opportunities they can.
In the sequel, Bob takes on a new (but equally heroic) role as a stay-at-home-dad, while Helen puts the supersuit back on, in the hopes of allowing her family to be seen and welcomed as “Supers” again. Both roles are handled with extraordinary care; Helen is not a negligent, career-centered mom, but a working mother who clearly cares deeply for her children while managing an intimidating day job. Bob is not “less-than” Helen for staying home, nor is he the perfect doting father. They stumble and they snap at each other, but don’t all of our families?
The portrayal of Bob Parr, who dons the Mr. Incredible suit a great deal less than he did in the first film, is entertaining (see: an exhausted Mr. Parr attempting to track down his youngest son with “cookie num-nums”) but it remains decisively “super.” He cares for his children, deals with Dash’s unfinished homework and baffling math assignments and juggles Violet’s teenage frustrations.
Though he doesn’t fight the bad guys as much as he did in “the good old days,” Bob remains just as much a superhero as his wife by being a father, succeeding most when he relies on his friends to help him. Despite the couple’s diverging paths and apparent frustrations, Helen and Bob remain an authentic—often entertaining—reflection on marriage and parenthood: math homework, sleep deprivation, teenage woes, late night phone calls, and all.
While their superpowers may elevate their relationships and experiences, the Parrs remain a portrayal of the family that called me to reflect on my own. We are at our strongest when we are in relationship with one another. We are not meant to go it alone. We are all super, whether that be as siblings, children, parents, spouses, or any role we may be called to fill. Regardless of how “super” we may look or feel, we don our suits, gather our teammates, and enter the action each and every day.
Disney Pixar has managed to do it again. Though the plot may fall prey at times to a complexity of messages, The Incredibles 2 is a worthwhile watch, both for its nostalgia and its ability to illuminate how family centers our world.
Maggie Garnett is a freshman who’s still discerning the whole “course of study” thing. She is living as a WILD woman in Walsh Hall and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Notre Dame bubble does exist, even when you go to college just a mile from home. Follow her on Twitter (so she can continue to work towards having more followers than her dad) @maggie_garnett, and send any and ALL Mamma Mia memes to email@example.com