The Incredibles

This film teaches lessons pleasantly, unobtrusively, but powerfully, like its titular family.

When my four-year-old granddaughter Addison repeated a line from "The Incredibles" about the film's harrowing adventure being the best vacation ever, I knew I had seen a true animation winner. Talk about "family values," and no, I have not turned neocon. The best animation of the year is "The Incredibles," a Pixar Studios ("Finding Nemo") adventure about a family of superheroes that stays together by doing what they do best, making life miserable for bad guys. Although "Spy Kids" did a credible job of suggesting family unity is the sanity solution to a fragmenting world, "The Incredibles" soars beyond that film to teach lessons pleasantly, unobtrusively, but powerfully, like its titular family.

Writer/director Brad Bird ("Iron Giant") has laced humor, both visual and cerebral, with kinetic adventure to please kids who like to see fast vehicles and naughty pranks give into sentimental codas about love and cooperation. As for the adults, when was the last time you enjoyed an intelligent treatment of the middle-age crisis more than "About Schmidt" with Jack Nicholson? The nicely layered "Incredibles" tale attacks modernist notions about socializing children into underachieving in order to reach a silly equilibrium as it at the same time exalts the emerging personas of individual family members embracing their unique strengths.

Along the way is the torment of a middle-aged, overweight Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr endangering his marriage by moonlighting his heroics after family had agreed to retire from the business, and Mrs. Parr (formerly "Plastigirl") regretting her ample rear end. The film's adventure exemplifies Dickens's notion that "accidents will occur in the best regulated families." Although the denouement goes as expected, the thrills, humor, and goodness transcend anything the current culture police try to force on the American public.

Andre Maurois in "The Art of Living" expressed well the "Incredibles'" subtext that defies uniformity: "The leveling influence of mediocrity and the denial of the supreme importance of the mind's development account for many revolts against family life."