3 Stars – Wholesome
The humor and lessons of Brad Bird’s computer-animation “The Incredibles” are insightful. Teaching us the importance of every person using the special abilities they have been given is only the beginning lesson of this entertaining classroom. Bird also explores with us the destructive power of jealousy, mediocrity, and selfish ambition. And perhaps the most important lesson of all is our responsibility to prepare the next generation to use their unique abilities through practice and accountability to fight evil while respecting and honoring those who depend upon us.
The story is a classic tale with a postmodern twist. The twist is that the crime-fighting skills of the “super-heroes” are attacked by a population that is jealous of them. Taking the heroes to court and holding them liable for the collateral damage and unexpected consequences of their heroic acts, the government steps in and protects the heroes by relocating them and requiring them to live in anonymity without using their powers.
Mr. Incredible (voice by Craig T. Nelson) had fallen in love with Elastigirl (voice by Holly Hunter) and they were married in their “secret identity” life. Required to relocate and live without using their powers, the story jumps fifteen years into the future when this denial of their identities and abilities is eating away at Mr. Incredible. Having given birth to three children, each with superpowers they are denied to use, the pressure is mounting and the family is showing the strains.
This is the primary lesson of the film. The God-given abilities we have are not to be suppressed. If they are, then rather than being used for good, they can be twisted and come out in dysfunctional form. This is seen in the two older children of the Incredible family.
The oldest child, Violet (voice by Sarah Vowell), is able to disappear. Instead of using her ability to fight crime, she uses it to stalk a boy in her class on whom she has a crush.
The second born child is a son named Dashiell, nicknamed Dash (voice by Spencer Fox), who uses his super speed to play tricks on his teacher by moving so fast that even on video tape he cannot be seen and held accountable.
Before the ban on superheroes, Mr. Incredible came across a young fan with super-inventing ability who wanted to help him. Calling himself Syndrome (voice by Jason Lee), he tries to help Mr. Incredible, only to be rejected and ridiculed. This turns Syndrome into a sociopath who decides to use his super-technology to do evil, defeat the real super heroes and gain selfish fame.
This is an extremely important lesson. Each generation is responsible to identify and nurture the abilities of the next generation. Rather than trying to level all people into a mediocre montage of people with no special gifts or places to fill in life, the goal is to help each person find their own area in which excellence can be reached. With each person trying to do the best of which they are capable, the whole of humanity will be enriched and the future empowered.
The lessons don’t end with these. The Incredibles learn to be a family affirming their true identities regardless of societal opinions, while the nation learns to appreciate their abilities and help in a world where lords of the underworld, like Underminer (voice by John Ratzenberger), always need to be defeated.
- When we try to protect the self-esteem of children by removing the encouragement and opportunities for individuals to show their special abilities, what do you think will be the end result?
- It has been said that every person is an “A student” in something. Do you agree with this? How do we help people find their special abilities? Does education that requires everyone to learn in the same way serve us well? Why or why not?
- The suppression of our abilities in order to “fit in” often causes us to then use them for dysfunctional purposes. How have you found this to be true in your own life? What happens when persons are not given a venue in which to be helpful or express themselves in a positive way?
- It has been said that there is a “warrior spirit” within most teenagers that longs to fight – and if they don’t have a true evil to fight against they will turn and fight against parents and society. Do you believe this to be true? How was this lived out in Syndrome’s life?