Maybe it’s global warming, or maybe it’s just July in Southern California.
Whatever the reason behind the record-breaking heat wave earlier this month, it managed to drive my wife and I into the industrial-strength air-conditioning of a movie theater seeking relief.
And since the cost of movie tickets and popcorn are what they are, we wanted to not just sit in the lovely cool air, but we wanted some extra bang for our bucks. Therefore, looking for a fluffy piece of fun we settled on “Incredibles 2,” even though we are not presently in possession of a child young enough not to be able to vote.
We didn’t want to think too much, we just wanted to escape the outside temperature, which probably resembled a mild spring day… on Mercury.
Though I was expecting the standard Pixar level of excellence and entertainment, I wasn’t prepared for some of the underlying messaging that was coming through loud and clear.
Granted, this is a computer generated animated feature — a cartoon for all intent and purposes — and it dealt with characters with copious amounts of ridiculous and unbelievable super powers. Yet it cut to the quick to some of the biggest issues that have plagued families since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
It might seem delusional to claim to discover deep cultural and philosophical meaning in just about any movie these days, let alone religious meaning — this coming from a guy who thinks John Ford’s western classic “The Searchers” is filled to the brim with Old and New Testament allegories.
So, seeking such insight in a cartoon is especially tricky business, and sometimes a movie is just a movie.
“Incredibles 2” was not preaching anything in particular, and it certainly wasn’t promoting the usual Disney animated staple of indoctrinating the audience on the preeminence of following one’s own heart over one’s own head, or teaching the adults how to live through the actions of younger characters who always seems wiser than their years warrant.
Besides having a more complex and interestingly motivated villain than most live-action superhero movies, “Incredibles 2” had some pretty profound things to say about family dynamics and the roles mothers and fathers play.
First, it has an intact, nuclear family with a father and a mother. That fact alone makes this movie a cultural outlier. The parents have kids and each kid has issues that seem very important to them, whether it is trying to figure out a “new” way to do “old” math, or navigate the beginning of growing up.
The baby has “issues” too, but you’ll have to watch the movie to know them.
It’s ironic that you must move to watching a cartoon to see real-life family issues portrayed in a real and thoughtful manner. Mr. Incredible becomes a Mr. Mom as Mrs. Incredible must take a job to secure the family’s stability.
Both Mr. and Mrs. are making a sacrifice, and I almost choked on my popcorn when Mrs. Incredible voiced actual second thoughts about leaving her family, and suggested strongly that if her husband was not up to the challenge, she would give up her job.
In other words, the kids came first.
What ensued was your basic, dad-is-not-all-that-competent kind of comedy, but it was done with a genuine affection for the dad character. Eventually Mr. Incredible figures out how to run the house the way a man would. In other words, he’s not “Mr. Mom,” he’s “Mr. Dad.” It’s almost as if the movie was making the statement than men and women are different and dare I say it … complementary to one another in the way the Church has taught infallibly for 2,000 years.
Even though Mr. Incredible wants to be out there fighting supervillains — like all good fathers — he takes his new role seriously and although conflicted, supports his wife in a very beautiful, albeit imperfect way.
I didn’t see that “take” on family life coming — although I should have, since the original “The Incredibles” movie had similar elements of celebrating the foibles and the beauty of the intact nuclear family.
Crazy super-villains and kinetic action sequences aside, the core of the movies is family — a mom and dad struggling to be good parents while their children go through all the things flesh-and-blood children go through. And they do this with mutual respect and love — what a concept.
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