By James Bregman
The Incredibles are the most unusual of families
The Incredibles, the latest computer-generated epic from Pixar and Walt Disney, makers of Toy Story and Finding Nemo, will receive its UK premiere at the London Film Festival on Wednesday.
The trademark humour, vivid characters and groundbreaking visual splendour of the Pixar/Disney partnership are in full evidence in this immensely enjoyable film.
It's the tale of a superhuman husband and wife team, comprising all-round action man Bob Incredible (voiced by Craig T Nelson) and his rubber-limbed wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter).
They lead happy crimefighting lives until a spate of frivolous lawsuits makes all superhero work impossible.
After years of reluctant retirement they're settled in drab suburbia bringing up kids. However, Bob is perilously bored with civilian life and when he gets an offer of a covert return to superheroism he can't resist donning his skintight hero-suit again. But it soon spells trouble for the whole Incredible family.
The voice of sneering villain Syndrome is provided by Jason Lee
The plot is simple enough but the film is less streamlined and predictable than you might expect.
This is no bad thing as it keeps proceedings fresh and interesting for a long time.
The strung-out final stages go on too long, however, and the untidy final battles descend into an ill-disciplined explosions-and-shouting fest.
But the action is always meticulously choreographed, and the film never ceases to be great to look at.
Backdrops and character design - particularly the lantern-jawed Bob - hark back
to superhero tales of the 40s and 50s, although the overall look fuses elements from several decades either side to great effect.
Bob and Helen Incredible are played by Craig T Nelson and Holly Hunter
The tone is darker than we've come to expect from Pixar, taking several strides toward the black humour of Shrek.
It's certainly less cutesy than last year's Finding Nemo, and blissfully free of the overt sentimentality that so regularly blights Disney's animated features.
The humour is as sharp as anything else in this genre. There are many moments of sheer delight, including a scene where an eccentric fashion guru vividly (and convincingly) demonstrates why capes are such an impractical accessory for superheroes.
It's a sequence that exemplifies the off-the-wall tone which really sets this film's brand of humour out from the crowd.
And as ever, the gags strike a perfect note that will thoroughly entertain kids without boring their parents.
The film may not feature any single character likely to prove unforgettable in years to come, even the hyperactive villain played by Jason Lee.
But this is really an ensemble performance, particularly when the Incredibles' super-powered children start getting in on the act.
The film-makers liberally and lovingly borrow designs and concepts from just about everywhere, from James Bond to X-Men.
But they steer wisely clear of getting bogged down with in-jokes, and despite effectively covering old ground, the film looks and feels extremely original.
The Incredibles opens across the UK on 19 November.