Ratatouille

What it’s about:

Remy has a dream common to many young Parisians – to work as a chef in a five star restaurant. He has all the necessary traits – a love of food, a great sense of smell and a flair for choosing ingredients. There's just one problem – he's a rat, the natural enemy of any chef. But then Remy finds an unlikely ally in Linguini, the downtrodden garbage boy, at his dream restaurant. Linguini shares Remy's passion for cooking, but none of his skill. Together they concoct a plan to combine their energies and become Paris's greatest chef.

What we thought of it:

You've got to hand it to Pixar. They've been the leaders in their field since their first feature – Toy Story – and they aren't showing any signs of slowing down. While everyone else is busy pumping out yet more freaky-fairy-tales or yet more animated penguin movies, here these guys are making a movie about a gourmand rodent.

And what a great movie it is. As usual Pixar have chosen a rich landscape to exploit for both comedy and drama, with everything from great physical comedy to snappy one liners (most of them at the expense of the French) and even some political commentary. And, of course, no one can resist an underdog story, as long as it doesn't get too sentimental.

It's also unafraid to actually say something meaningful. Ratatouille tackles complex and thorny issues: prejudice, elitism and artistic inspiration – all without sacrificing a sense of light-and-fluffy fun.

But what really separates Ratatouille from the crowd is the sheer craftsmanship of both animation and storytelling. Writer director Brad Bird, who brought us The Incredibles and The Iron Giant has such a deft touch for the little details that transform characters from merely good to great. Remy, in particular, is the most disarmingly loveable hero since Marlin in Finding Nemo.

In fact, in the hands of Bird, Ratatouille manages something that is still rare – it transcends its medium. Animation is still seen as the poorer cousin to the live action art form of "cinema" no matter what the box offices may say. But here you forget that you are watching a "cartoon", forget that you are watching anything at all in fact, and simply get carried away. And that, in the end, is what cinema is all about.

- Alistair Fairweather