Incredibles 2 was 14 years in the making. And many felt like the wait was worth it: The film widely received rave reviews and broke records in its opening weekend, earning $180 million, the most ever for any animated film.
When the first trailer came out in February 2018, many were worried the film would fall into “Dad is incompetent at being a parent” jokes. The plot, as the trailer laid out, shows Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) going back to work as a superhero, while her husband, Mr. Incredible (Craig Nelson,) stays home with the kids. Mr. Incredible looks exhausted, frustrated with his son’s math homework, and altogether incompetent.
As one stay-at-home Dad explained to Refinery 29, “Part of me is concerned that The Incredibles 2 will fall into the standard stereotype of the bumbling father that struggles with childcare, messes stuff up at home, and has to call his wife at work and say, ‘I can’t do this.'”
But I’m here to tell you good news: That’s not what happens at all.
Instead, Mr. Incredible leans into his newfound stay-at-home dad status. When frustrated by his son Dash’s math homework (“WHY WOULD THEY CHANGE MATH?!” he so relatably exclaims), he stays up late to teach himself the lesson so he can help his son. When his daughter Violet is having boy troubles, he, in dad fashion, tries to make things right and just makes them worse. But he tries!
As Shea Serrano explains in the Ringer, “Really, for any new stay-at-home parent, the only objective is for you to not let any of your children accidentally die. And so in that respect, he was successful.”
I watched #Incredibles2 today, and it was incredible 😁 The movie focused a lot on the challenges of parenting, specifically the challenges faced by a working mum and a stay-at-home dad. Very well written, a great plot, cool action scenes, very funny, & some tender family moments
— Jazli Aziz (@JazliAziz) June 18, 2018
Where Incredibles 2 gets real about that stay-at-home life is when he has to deal with Jack-Jack, the youngest child whose superpowers are just developing — meaning, his young kid suddenly can disappear into the fourth dimension, crawl through walls, and shoot lasers out of his eyes. (To anyone parenting a child who just learned to crawl or walk: You totally relate, right?) By the end of the film — this isn’t a spoiler — Jack-Jack has shown 17 powers.
As Brad Bird, the movie’s director, explains, “Helen [Elastigirl] says in the movie, ‘You know, any baby is a challenge.’ But then to put it on a quantum level with a baby that can go through walls and turn into a little devil or catch on fire. To me, that’s just an abstraction of what babies really are.”
When Mr. Incredible realizes the extent of Jack-Jack’s powers after a particularly comic scene in which the baby tussles with a raccoon (seriously laugh-out-loud for the whole family, and arguably the best moment of the movie), he does what any parent would do: seek out an expert. The expert, in this case, just happens to be the one and only Edna Mode, superhero suit designer.
Because up until this point, dad’s only solution to calm down Jack-Jack’s powers was to give him cookies. (But… who can’t relate to this shameless cookies-for-good-behavior?)
Incredibles 2 is a superhero story, yes, but also dives into the heroics of stay-at-home parents. Mr. Incredible learns to excel at this skill by listening to his kids, being a resource for them as best as possible, and asking for help when he needs it. Whether you’re a mom or a dad, or you work full-time or you are home with the kids, all parents could learn a thing or two from the film.
We’re hoping we don’t have to wait another 14 years for Incredibles 3.