The Incredibles isn't quite as super-heroic as it could have been, but the family of superheroes in this computer-animated story could still save the world for me any old day.
They're a loving, squabbling, human family who, clearly, are going to get the best of the evil madman and assorted henchmen who threaten the world from their (yawn) tropical island fortress.
And they do it with much flair and good humor, even if the frenetic action sometimes threatens to smother the jaunty good humor at the film's heart.
The Incredibles is another gorgeous, smart production from the good people at Pixar Animation Studios (Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo), who consistently turn out some of the most satisfying stuff in mainstream filmmaking.
It imagines a retro world in which superheroes, facing the wrath of an ungrateful public, are forced to go undercover to lead anonymous, non-heroic lives, hidden among everyone else.
That's the fate that befell burly Bob Parr, who was once known as Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson of TV's Coach). Fifteen years ago, he traded his skintight suit for a tie and short-sleeved white shirt. And now he's driving a tiny economy car and working in the claims department of a heartless insurance company.
Though he occasionally does some freelance heroism with his buddy Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), he's mostly just a regular husband and dad. His wife, Helen (a sweet Holly Hunter), who used to be Elastigirl, has adapted more easily to her more mundane life.
They have three children: Dash, a rambunctious boy with super-human speed; Violet, who can make herself invisible; and Jack-Jack, a baby who doesn't seem to be especially gifted in any way.
Soon enough, though, Bob -- who's heavier and slower than he was in the old days -- is coaxed out of retirement by a mysterious client who offers money and excitement. Before long, it's a family affair.
The Incredibles will remind you of the better parts of Spider-man, X-Men, Spy Kids and James Bond too, with a jazzy score that'll take you right back to the early Bond.
Unfortunately, the film occasionally also brings to mind the empty beauty at the heart of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, what with its disappointing evil nemesis, its giant killer robots and that aforementioned tropical island fortress.
The Incredibles isn't the flawless entertainment that the first Toy Story or Monsters, Inc. was: Its plot isn't anything special, and it's too long by at least 10 minutes.
And while it has any number of funny moments, it doesn't have many of the stick-to-your-brain witticisms that the other Pixar movies are packed with.
It's too busy spinning action scenes for that.
But what stylish, confident action scenes these are: Dash dashes through the jungle in one scene that's so furiously fast that you have to think all of Pixar's computers must have crashed and burned, repeatedly.
And some of the visual gags are great -- just wait until you see the improvised boat the family dreams up. Now that's true family togetherness.
3 1/2 stars out of 4
Who's it for? It's fine family entertainment, though perhaps too long for the smallest among us.
Credits: Starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L.
Jackson and Jason Lee. Written and directed by Brad Bird.
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.
Family guide: PG. Action violence.