"No gut, no glory." That's what the billboards advertising Pixar's The Incredibles say, and the picture of Mr. Incredible, with his super-sized mid-section, underlines the point. Yet, while the film is about a middle-aged superhero who is full of nostalgia for the "glory days," Pixar Animation Studios is demonstrating that they are as fit and as formidable as they've ever been. Mr. Incredible and his family—Elastigirl, Violet, and Dash—are sure to become favorite big screen heroes for moviegoers of all ages, and The Incredibles is destined to become one of those DVDs that never strays far from the player. If there is such a thing as an "instant classic," The Incredibles is it.

Moviegoers can thank storyteller and director Brad Bird, who joins forces with John Lasseter (Toy Story) and the Pixar team to unleash his enormous imagination on a scale that makes his previous film The Iron Giant look more like The Iron Dwarf. Packaging The Incredibles as family fun, Bird baits grownups into the cinema for a big fat serving of family therapy. He packs in observations about identity, family dynamics, the dangers of praising mediocrity, and the consequences of cultivating a lawsuit-happy culture (where heroes like doctors and teachers live in fear of offending trigger-happy patients and parents). Bob, Helen, Violet, and Dash learn to stretch their faith in each other, growing from a sullen, spat-prone clan into a rejuvenated and—if you will—purpose-driven family.

Religious press critics are joining mainstream critics in calling it one of the year's best films, and several say this is the peak of Pixar's run of near-perfect family films. I personally prefer Finding Nemo, but I'm giving The Incredibles four stars ...

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