Incredibles 2 continues the story of the Parr family from The Incredibles. While it is ostensibly a superhero story, at its heart this is a film about family and especially about parenting as children go through all the changes of growing up.
As in the original, superheroes are still illegal, but with the supervillain The Underminer on the loose, the family of superheroes goes into action—rather heavy-handedly, creating a mess of the city and being relocated. Forced to live in a motel, the family tries to think about what the future will hold for them. The parents, Bob, aka Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), and Helen, aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), know that one of them will need to get a job to support the family. Meanwhile, their middle school aged daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) is attracted to a boy at school, son Dash (Huckleberry Milner) struggles with his homework, and toddler Jack-Jack is a handful just in himself.
But Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and their friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) get an offer from industrialist siblings Winston and Evelyn Deavor (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener). They want to improve the world’s opinion of superheroes and make them legal again. Their plan is to use Elastigirl to stop some crimes (she does far less damage in the process that Mr. Incredible or Frozone). So Helen goes off to the big city while Bob stays home with the kids.
It turns out that Bob is a stereotypical incompetent father. He tries, but he can’t grasp new math, has no idea how to help Violet with the boys, and Jack-Jack is impossible to get down for the night. Plus, Jack-Jack now is manifesting his own superpowers—a wide array of powers.
Helen is busy doing battle with The Screenslaver, a villain who uses screen (TV, computer, whatever) to hypnotize people and have them do his will. She feels bad that she isn’t with her family, but relishes the opportunity so show off her skills. It’s not unlike the juggling of priorities that many parents experience. But when The Screenslaver gets the upper hand, Bob and the kids head off to save the day and the world (mostly it’s the kids, including Jack-Jack, that get their parents out of hot water).
What is charming about the Incredibles films is that they give us a chance to see superheroes who aren’t sullen loners, but rather people with happy family lives—happy even when the going is hard. The film, I think, allows parents to be reminded that the job they do matters. As the diminutive designer to the superheroes Edna Mode (Brad Bird) says, “Done properly, parenting is a heroic task.” As Bob mopes about being left out while Helen is fighting crime, this is a reminder of what the really hard job is. Parents aren’t gifted with super strength and powers—only with the love they have for their children. With that, parents face years of problems but also years of joy.
For the Parrs, a family where everyone has special powers, what really ties them together is not being strong, fast, elastic, invisible, or having lasers shooting out of their eyes. The connection they have is really the bond that can exist in the families of all those who go to watch the movie together.
Let me also put in a word here for Bao, the short directed by Domee Shi (the first woman to direct a Pixar film), playing along with Incredibles 2. It is a delightful story of a woman whose handmade dumpling comes to life. We watch as she and the dumpling go through the years. The dumpling passes through all the phases of childhood and into being a young adult. It is hard for the woman to let go of her baby dumpling, but in the end, we see just how wonderful it is to see your child grow into an adult.
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios