I’ve mentioned on this blog I have only recently gotten into the superhero movie genre. For years they were too explosion heavy and stupid without any interesting characters. With Avengers started a new trend (at least for me) of charismatic actors playing likable characters with interesting stories. Each year it seems they get stronger till last year we had 3 excellent entries with X-men Days of Future Past, Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Each of these movies were puzzles with entertaining characters and good stories.
During the superhero dry spell there were 2 movies that poked through the dreck Spiderman 2 and The Incredibles. Hercules was actually Disney’s first attempt at making a comic book movie but Pixar’s The Incredibles was their first true superhero movie. But like any good genre movie The Incredibles rises above it to be great on so many levels.
I think every movie fan has certain touchpoints in movies that when they are there it is almost always a win. Some of mine are flying, the ocean, true love, musicals, work, and feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. The last two are particularly prevalent in The Incredibles but perhaps not messages people first think of. But I know for me The Incredibles is great because it is a movie about work and coming to terms with your own story. It’s also a great movie about family and the power of a strong marriage.
Like any good movie about work The Incredibles starts out showing Bob and Helen Parr’s potential to do great things- to be super. But through a brilliant opening montage we learn they must hide their abilities and attempt to live a normal life. For Helen this means be a housewife to her 3 children which she can tolerate enough. However, for Bob it means working in what I call ‘cubicle hell’ in a job selling insurance policies.
This is not who Bob is. Other people could be perfectly happy selling insurance but he is miserable because he was made for better things. I know how that feels. I’ve been in that cubicle knowing I could do more, be more, and it is the worst feeling ever. Sure bad things happen all the time but it is a different kind of awful to be stuck permanently with an unhappy mediocre life.
Bob’s boss is this tiny little shrill man which makes for the greater contrast with Bob and their interactions are very funny. He wants to do something good with his life. He wants to tell the story he’s supposed to tell. It’s the same reason I love The Little Mermaid. Ariel isn’t happy because she isn’t being the person she knows she is supposed to be. I really believe it is an important part of human existence to find out what you are supposed to give the world and then do it. And I’ve been in the Ariel/Bob spot where I knew I didn’t belong and had to make a change.
I also relate to Dash Parr, Bob and Helen’s youngest son who has the gift of being super fast. He wants to use his gift but he can’t. He is told to not express that. He makes the brilliant point “when everyone is special, nobody is”. (You all can see why I like Frozen so much right…same message of a child told to hide their gifts). I can remember as a little girl feeling like I couldn’t share my heart very well. I told my family in one argument “I’m the weird one here but at school I’m the normal one”. Just like Ariel and Dash didn’t quite belong. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling.
But then Bob (Mr Incredible voiced by Craig T Nelson) gets the opportunity to start using his skills again. And what happens? He is happy. He gets in shape. He smiles more. He and his wife (Elastigirl voiced by Helen Hunt) don’t argue as much. He’s telling the right story so he is in a good place. He’s doing the work he was made to do. He even gets a new flashy supersuit from the hilarious fashionista Edna (director Brad Bird).
Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as he at first hopes. It turns out a young boy who was bothering him during the glory days has grown bitter and wants to enact revenge on all superheroes especially his former idol Mr Incredible. He wants to be the hero but with his own inventions not the help of super powers. He is a very chilling, scary villain, partly because he knows all the villain cliches. At one point he says ‘you got me monologuing!”
Eventually the entire family becomes involved in fighting Syndrome and it is in the last third the movie becomes more of a standard superhero movie but still entertaining. Both Violette and Dash are instrumental in saving the day and using their powers along with the Parr friend Frozone (Samuel L Jackson). I love when Helen tells the kids “Your identity is your most valuable possession”. That’s a main message of the film.
I love the sense of family and camaraderie with the Parrs and it is so fun to see each family member blossom in their own unique ways. Most Disney films are about people meeting and falling in love. Incredibles is one of the only one’s I can think of about how important marriage is. It shows a couple fighting, getting along, and working together. Violette at one point says ” Mom and Dad’s lives could be in jeopardy or worse- their marriage”. I love that!
Like in Finding Nemo there is some terrific dialogue in between the action- along with some real moments of heart. I love when Bob rants about graduation. It reminds me of when President Obama wanted to outlaw 8th grade graduation- the one item we probably agree on most!
Helen: I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation!
Bob: It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the fourth grade to the fifth grade.
Helen: It’s a ceremony!
Bob: It’s psychotic! People keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…
Ha! That cracks me up every time!
There’s a lot of witty dialogue like that and that keeps it from feeling too predictable or stale. Edna especially gets a lot of the great laughs.
Syndrome might be a little scary for small children (I’m so bad at gauging that). Some of the work and marriage drama might be a bit over their heads but it is surrounded by the kids who I think children will really relate too. They will enjoy the action and the story is simple enough for them to understand.
The Incredibles is a movie you can watch with your entire family because it is about a family. They are dysfunctional at times and quarrel but so does every family. In the end they all want what is best for each other . They all want their family to be safe and happy. the movie is the journey that gets them a little closer to that goal.
I love it. And like I said if you piece it apart it is one of the best movies about work I’ve seen.
Overall Grade- A+
So Incredibles 2 is the next project for Brad Bird. Are we excited? I am!