Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 58 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 2; Language 0; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 5
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
I know that the apostle Paul is writing about spiritual gifts for use in the church, but the above introductory words could also be applied to the Parr family and their superhero friends in writer/ director Brad Bird’s delightful sequel. For believers, the Pratts’ extraordinary powers– Helen/Elastigirl’s (Holly Hunter) is the ability to stretch and contort her body enormously; Bob/Mr. Incredible’s (Craig T. Nelson) is incredible strength; daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) can become invisible; Dash (Huck Milner) is super-fast; and this time baby Jack-Jack can enter other dimensions and emit fire—are God-given.
It has been 14 years since the first film, but the new film picks right away with the Parrs and their good friend Lucius/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) living ordinary lives under the government’s protection program, their super powers outlawed by a public fearful of the damage their vigilante acts against criminal’s cause. In addition to the usual teenage angst over parental control, Violet is depressed when jilted by a boy. Dash is having trouble with New Math, and Jack-Jack’s developing super powers continually upset the family’s equilibrium.
Enter Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) is the CEO of DevTech, a large telecommunications company” and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), the scientist whose ingenious products make the company such a frontrunner. Sympathetic to the cause of superheroes, they contact the Parrs about a campaign designed to change the public’s perception of superheroes. The Parrs after considerable talk and thought agree to participate, though Bob’s eagerness decreases when the Deavers tell him that they want just Helen for the present. It seems that his great strength is too destructive of property, so that Helen is a better candidate to begin the re-introduction of super heroes into society.
There is a delightful family conversation about the ethics of the plan, which could lead a viewing group to review Thoreau’s “Essay on Civil Disobedience. Helen worriedly objects to breaking a law, “If laws are unjust, there are laws to change them.” Bob, following Thoreau, convinces her that it is time for righteous civil disobedience. She takes out her old costume, puts it on, and leaves home for an extended time. Violet, trying to follow the logic of the family discussion asks, “Mom is going out illegally to explain why she shouldn’t be illegal?”
The home-front sequence could have been just another sequence in which a patriarchal Dad has his come-uppance when attempting to do what Mom has done so efficiently. He does indeed have problems trying to help Violet with her depression, dash with his New Math, and keeping in check Jack-Jack’s newly developing, and very dangerous, powers. However, he discovers more than this, that the all too often undervalued career of domestic care-giver is fatigue-inducing, but also rewarding, even heroic
Meanwhile Helen discovers what those in the #MeToo movement are finding, a life from under the shadow of a male, free to exercise her own gifts as her public approval soars—in other words, a woman has value in herself, without reference to a relationship with a male. Although always checking in with Bob to enquire about him and the children, she feels a sense of empowerment beyond the home.
Elastigirl funds herself up against a formidable foe, a villain called Screenslaver who has the power of mass hypnosis, either by projecting a spiral pattern onto any kind of a screen or by placing a special pair of spiral-patterned goggles over a victim’s eyes, as happens one time with Elastigirl. The villain rants about how people are controlled by screens because they’re lazy–perhaps a good point for a discussion, but what a terrible means the villain has for fighting this. Of course, before the struggle is over, the whole Parr family will be involved, as well as other superheroes. Frozone will especially be crucial in saving the city from destruction. Gadget maker Edna Mode (voiced by Brad Bird himself) also is back, so there is so much to enjoy and celebrate in this, one of the best animated films of the year, so full of family values. I just realized that Edna is the one whom I was quoting a few paragraphs back—”Done properly, parenting is a heroic act… done properly”
And the opening action sequence is so exciting that everyone in the family, from tots to grandparents will be thrilled. Brad Bird, who made one of my favorite peace-making films The Iron Giant, is at the top of his form, both in regard to action and to opening up ideas for reflection and discussion in this visual parable that can transport us beyond mere entertainment.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the July issue of Visual Parables.