Remy (Patton Oswalt), a rat, dreams of becoming a great chef despite his family’s wishes and the obvious problem of being a rat in a decidedly rodent-phobic profession. When fate places Remy in Paris, he finds himself beneath a restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett). Despite the apparent dangers of being an unwanted visitor in the kitchen of one of Paris’ most exclusive restaurants, Remy forms an unlikely partnership with Linguini (Lou Romano), the garbage boy who inadvertently discovers Remy’s amazing talents.

Sets a new benchmark in animation.

Pixar has become a brand name you can trust. The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, the Toy Story films – they’re all immensely entertaining and heartfelt. Only last year’s Cars stalled – it felt, well, more mechanical.

The human characters are like a New Yorker cartoon come to life

Ratatouille sees Pixar back on form with another film destined to be regarded as a classic.

Remy is a rat with a refined nose and palate who wants to be a chef – to the disgust of his garbage eating family and friends. Separated from his clan, our rodent winds up in Paris, and at the restaurant of his hero, the recently deceased master chef Gusteau.

There Remy fulfils his dreams of being a cook – by secretly becoming the boss of lowly janitor Linguini. But the restaurant’s chef Skinner suspects a rat and the venomous food critic Anton Ego is poised to strike.

Ratatouille sets a new benchmark in animation. The human characters are like a New Yorker cartoon come to life, while the rats could be genetically engineered muppets. The fantastical realism on offer puts to shame the fugly Shrek or the lumpy rats of Flushed Away. And the realisation of Paris is as romantic as the real thing.

As a comic-hero, Linguini is perhaps a bit too wet and floppy – it would’ve been good for him to step up to the plate more. But the plucky rodent Remy is very likeable and the bad guys steal the show hilariously.

However, Ratatouille is not without its flaws. I wondered why the good guys had to be Americans in what is a French story set in Paris. And the film feels off balance, meandering – albeit beautifully – before snapping into focus in the second hour. These are pretty minor quibbles because there’s much here to love.

Writer-director Brad Bird, who last delivered The Incredibles, makes comedies that don’t talk down to kids or add lame pop culture riffs for their parents. The emphasis is on characterisation and clever dialogue.

Along with laughs, there are genuinely moving emotional moments and the sort of action-chase thrills you’d expect from James Bond. if 007 was a six-inch rat wielding a spatula.

Ratatouille ranks as yet another winner from Pixar. Four stars.