Dir/scr:Brad Bird. US. 2004. 121 mins.

Thesixth - and probably penultimate - Disney/Pixar collaboration is a technicallybrilliant piece of CG animation that also manages to introduce muscular actionand real family drama to a genre known mostly for bubbly fun. Not that TheIncredibles isn't also fun; it's just that in this, his first CG outing,admired animation writer-director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) deftlyblends the fun with other elements to produce a beautifully rounded familymovie experience. It may be a slightly less warm 'n' fuzzy, more adult-slantedexperience than the previous five Pixar/Disney projects, but it is still anexperience that should appeal to a huge number of family moviegoers.

Disneyisn't taking any chances, of course, and the film's opening in the US thiscoming weekend is being backed by a massive promotional campaign, reportedlythe studio's largest ever for an animated release. Domestic competition will bestiff - Shark Tale is already out, The Polar Express follows inless than a week and the SpongeBob SquarePants movie comes soon after -but the opening should nevertheless be impressive.

Theonly question is whether The Incredibles can move beyond the totalsachieved by previous autumn Pixar/Disney releases such as Monsters Incand Toy Story 2 and approach the levels of recent summer CG smashes likeDreamWorks' Shrek 2 and Pixar/Disney's Finding Nemo.

TheIncrediblesrolls out beyond the US between now and Christmas and has the potential to doeven better internationally than domestically (as three of Pixar/Disney'sprevious films have done). The only potential limiting factor is the story'sreliance on the distinctly American idea of the superhero rather than on aculturally non-specific cast of animal or fantasy characters.

Videoand international takings could be boosted if the film gets significant awardrecognition and it certainly seems likely that The Incredibles will giveShrek 2 and Polar Express some serious competition for theanimated feature Oscar.

Thetitle family isn't too far away from being a superhero version of the Simpsons (on whose TV series Bird onceworked). A brief prologue shows the super-strong Mr Incredible (voiced byNelson) and the ultra-flexible Elastigirl (Hunter) squeezing their marriageceremony in between heroic deeds performed for a grateful city populace.

Butwhen superheroes suddenly fall out of favour the couple moves to the suburbsand tries to live a normal life as Bob and Helen Parr. Their kids - shy teenViolet (Vowell), rambunctious Dash (Fox) and baby Jack Jack - fight just likenormal kids and Bob's friend Lucius (Jackson), the former superhero Frozone,keeps his pal company in exile.

Thefilm's first act paints a dramatic portrait - with some fairly subtle touchesof humour - of the family: Bob's frustration with his boring job; the kids'struggle to hide their inherited super powers, which cleverly echo realchildhood and teen traits; and Helen's attempts to keep the family peace. Thesegment will probably test the patience of younger viewers but it provides thefilm with a valuable emotional foundation.

Thedrama begins to turn into action when Bob gets a mysterious offer of superheroemployment. He can't resist stepping back into his tattered Mr Incredible suit,even though Helen begins to suspect that he may be seeing another woman.

Thethird act, in which the family has to unite against a wannabe-superhero enemy(Lee), develops into a full-blown action adventure that's part James Bond andpart Spy Kids. The moral - Bob eventually realizes that his family is 'mygreatest adventure' - isn't particularly original but it's arrived at viasome nice interplay between the kids and their parents.

Thefilm's animation shows that Pixar artists are still refining the CG techniquesand tools they first displayed almost a decade ago with Toy Story. Theartists don't have as obvious a challenge here as they faced in creating theundersea world of Finding Nemo, but their work on the film's real-worldsettings, and on details like hair and fabric, is fantastically impressive.

Thestory's main characters - the first really human characters to be featured in aPixar movie - are designed to be lifelike in some respects and stylised inothers, a blend that avoids the creepy effect sometimes produced by naturalisticCG characters. The main voice performances are relatively understated, withnone of the exaggerated comic turns featured in other CG offerings.

Muchof the comedy, in fact, comes from incidental characters with even morestylised appearances and over the top voices. The standouts are Bob's pettyboss, voiced by Shawn, and superhero fashion designer Edna Mode, hilariouslyvoiced by Bird himself.

Notsurprisingly, the film's closing moments seem to be setting up a sequel. Itremains to be seen, however, who would make the follow-up: though talks betweenDisney and Pixar about extending their relationship broke down in January,Disney reportedly has the right to make sequels to films produced by the twocompanies under their existing deal.

Prodco: PixarAnimation Studios
W'wide dist:
Buena Vista/BVI
Exec prod:
John Lasseter
JanetLucroy, Patrick Lin, Andrew Jimenez
Prod des:
Lou Romano
Main cast (voices):
Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L Jackson, Jason Lee,Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Wallace Shawn, Brad Bird