Have you ever had an identity crisis? Maybe you have worked hard in crafting one way of life for yourself, only to have unforeseen events impel you to adopt another one? As this is the Advent season, one of the themes that you find throughout the readings is the need for preparation. 1 Thessalonians 5:2 relates how “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” There are other such Biblical references underscoring the wisdom of being ready for such potentialities. More temporally, we tend to wrap ourselves in a variety of walls and other things to protect ourselves against anything. Homes have elaborate security systems, as do cars, and literature has superheroes who are on guard for the things that go bump in the night. We idolize such people, but seldom think about them fully, as in who they are like beyond the mask. That is until movies like The Incredibles (2004).
The Incredibles sets up a world that is at once familiar and yet different. It has all the things you might expect from any modern society, albeit with a style that seems a little dated. The one aspect of life in this alternate reality that we do not have are fully fledged superheroes with a myriad of special abilities. The main two the film focuses on are Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), a person of immense strength, and Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter), a woman with a stretchiness that lives up to her title. They end up falling in love and get married as Bob and Helen Parr. However, on their wedding day Mr. Incredible saves a man who had leapt off a building in an apparent suicide attempt, an act that broke several bones in the jumper’s body. This triggers a lawsuit against Mr. Incredible, and an avalanche of other court proceedings that leads to superheroes being banned. Thus Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl are resigned to their mundane lives as Bob and Helen Parr. They start a family, with Bob trudging off to work for an insurance company where he is told to deny as many claims as possible, and Helen staying home to raise their growing family. The rest of the family seems well adjusted to this new arrangement, even though son Dashiell “Dash” (voiced by Spencer Fox) and daughter Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell) each have their own special abilities. Dash has extraordinary speed and Violet can be literally invisible, which is a brilliant stroke for the writers to give such an ability to a teenager with her angst. Despite what they can do, everything appears normal, but it is dad who has the most trouble adjusting. Thus when a shadowy figure reaches out to him with a chance to get back into the hero business, Bob does not hesitate to don the now slightly tighter costume of Mr. Incredible. They ask him to travel to a remote island in order to destroy a giant, destructive robot. Helen believes Bob is going on business trips, not knowing that he had been fired from his job. She finds out when she is contacted by Edna “E” Mode (voiced by Brad Bird), the costume designer of choice for superheroes, who had designed a new set of duds for Mr. Incredible’s clandestine activities. Edna had also put together a whole set for all the Parrs, and while Helen charges off to the island to confront her husband, the children stowaway on the plane she flies for this purpose. Meanwhile Bob learns that the person behind bringing him to this location to fight this machine is Buddy Pine (voiced by Jason Lee), now going by Syndrome, who has been using out-of-work superheroes to test against his creation in order to make it stronger. His grand plan is to not only get revenge on the people who snubbed him as a kid, namely Mr. Incredible, but also to set himself up for the kind of worship reserved for superheroes even though he has no powers of his own. When he launches his attack on the big city where they all come from, there will be no Mr. Incredible to save the day, only Syndrome, and nobody will be the wiser that he has a remote control for the deathbot. However, he had apparently made the robot too good, for it quickly turns against its creator shortly after it lands in the city. Luckily, the Parrs are able to make it back to the city, and with their powers combined they are able to defeat the robot. In the process, they realize that they are more powerful as a family than they can ever be on their own.
This is a lesson that is learned particularly by Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles, but also by Syndrome. As a boy, he was the biggest fan of Mr. Incredible, and even tried to be his sidekick. It is the rebuff that Buddy received as a child that led him to becoming Syndrome, remarking that you cannot rely on anyone, especially your heroes. This idea is shared by Mr. Incredible, who only works alone. Thus when he is asked to come to the island he goes not only because he wants to relive his glory days, but also because he wants the glory for himself. However, overcoming his desire to be solo is more than just about learning to love and rely on his family. It is wonderful to see the value of others, but the other aspect of this is just as important: being who you are. Bob Parr attempting to fit in with the rest of the society as an insurance agent is him denying that which makes him special. It is cliché to say that everyone is special, but to make that statement less so I would add that everyone is special to God, and that He endows us all with gifts that are unique to each of us. True happiness lies in accepting who God created you to be and using what He gave you for the building up of the Kingdom, or protecting it as with the Incredibles.
I have no reservations about recommending The Incredibles to all audiences, though it is somewhat surprising to see actual guns used (albeit of the cartoon variety) in a Disney production. In any case, each member of the Parr family holds something for people of all ages. That can sometimes be a recipe for disaster, but the film deftly handles all four storylines, giving just enough of each for the plot to remain tight. But overall, it is just a sweet movie, even for somebody like me who usually finds Disney films to be more shallow than what others feel about them.