Saving the world before dinner gets cold, Pixar's The Incredibles blends superhero derring-do with domestic dysfunction to wickedly funny effect. Writer-director Brad Bird shows the same attention to character that set apart his debut feature, The Iron Giant (1999), and ensures that sumptuous CG animation takes second place to a ripping good yarn. Flexing their acting muscles as well as their vocal chords, Craig T Nelson and Holly Hunter boost the quirky quotient for this truly inspired family adventure.
Set in the candy-coloured 50s, workaday crime-fighter Mr Incredible aka Bob Parr (Craig T Nelson) falls foul of an ungrateful citizen who sues him for botching his suicide attempt. Other law suits follow, prompting a nationwide ban on all superheroes and forcing Bob and his wife Helen aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) underground.
"BRILLIANT COMIC SPARKS"
Fifteen years later the Incredibles are leading a humdrum suburban existence; their children (Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell) struggle to fit in with their less than incredible peers while Bob yearns for the glory days. Helen begs them to conform, but when the world faces a new threat from the psychotic Syndrome (Jason Lee), Bob defies his wife's wishes and that's when the trouble really begins.
High-octane action rubs up against mundane moments creating brilliant comic sparks, like the sight of a hulking Bob wedged inside his office cubicle or a fellow crusader snagging his cape with fatal consequences. Both Hunter and Nelson brilliantly underplay their roles and never lapse into goofball delivery. However, it's Bird himself who steals the show as fascist fashion designer Edna, a riotous cross between Vivienne Westwood and Pol Pot.
Much of the humour risks playing over the heads of younger viewers and the two-hour running time will also test small concentration spans. But The Incredibles flies high above the crowd for its worldly wit and compassion for humankind.