I need to preface this by saying I like Answers in Genesis. I have some of their materials. But Jeremy Ham and I came away from watching The Incredibles 2 with very different views about how it expresses family relationships. In fact, I kind of hate to say this but I feel like he missed the point of the film entirely.
The main criticism he has of the film (which he takes great care to say that he enjoyed) is that it promotes equality between the sexes by making men look foolish.
In the film, Bob (Mr. Incredible) is seen looking after their children while his wife, Helen (Elastigirl), works as a superhero. If the movie had just stayed with this scenario, I would not be writing this article, but I came away with the impression that Mr. Incredible was initially shown as incapable of handling his children. In addition, Elastigirl was more capable than her husband in the role of a professional superhero. ~Jeremy Ham, Incredibles 2, Equality and Fatherhood
But this isn’t what is going on at all. The central theme is much closer to the call for fatherhood Mr. Ham makes at the end of his brief review. If you look at the complete story arc of The Incredibles (1 & 2), it isn’t about heroines being as strong as heroes. It isn’t really about superheroes at all.
Instead, it is about Bob Parr finding his greatest adventure.
Consider the first movie. Here, we are introduced to Bob Parr, a superhero and a man of incredible talents, wasting away in an ordinary home in an ordinary town in an ordinary job. He represents every man who feels like his life should have been more. His entire life is subpar (and do notice how close that word is to Bob Parr). He yearns for adventure, which makes him easy prey for the supervillain’s ruse.
The theme of the movie could not have been more clearly explained than Bob’s own words while he and his family are trapped together on the island:
“You are my greatest adventure.” ~Mr. Incredible
Right there, he discovered his purpose, who he is and where his focus is supposed to be. His wife, his kids, his ordinary life in an ordinary home . . . THAT is his adventure. And he almost missed it chasing a dream.
So what is the second movie about? Mr. Incredible embarking on that adventure.
Sure, he is a bit awkward at first, but what can we expect? Up until now, he has longed for a life he couldn’t have and left his wife overstretched and unsupported at home. He barely knows his children. He barely knows himself outside of the role of superhero. But he recognizes this as an opportunity and he pursues it with dedication and passion.
He doesn’t parent like his wife. And he doesn’t know all the answers. But two remarkable things happen through his fatherly attention that I do not believe are mistakes.
First, Jack Jack begins to discover and test out his own powers. It is his father who first recognizes them and begins to guide their development. Second, his daughter finds the confidence to deal with her brainwashed first crush directly and boldly. Not only that, but in the closing scene when she finally gets to go out on a (supervised) date with the boy who has absorbed so much of her emotional energy, she chooses her family over him in a crisis.
That is the character of a girl with a strong father. Not strong like Mr. Incredible, but strong like Bob Parr who threw himself into this fatherhood gig a little late in the show, but is determined to make the best of it.
That’s why I love these movies so much. The superhero family in hiding creates an excellent plot device full of action, excitement and comedy that successfully entertains the whole family.
At its core, however, it is about the every day struggle of simply being “incredible” at this ordinary life.
Bob Parr may not lead by example, as Jeremy Ham calls on him to do. That is the Bob Parr we meet at the beginning of the first film. Instead, he learns to lead by love, supporting each member of his family as they discover themselves and learn to use their own strengths and talents. He brings out the best in each member of his family and in return, he is able to find his greatest adventure.
That is anything but foolish.
Please note: This is review is about the central theme of the story, not its appropriateness. There is a warning out about the flashing animation and those with light sensitivities. There are some other elements that may be of concern to some families. Those are all covered in Plugged In’s review.