Out a window . . .

Food, family, creativity, criticism, racism, romance: If these themes satisfy your critical standards for a superior film, then Ratatouille should qualify as one of your favorite films of the year.

Pixar and director Brad Bird, who defined family entertainment with The Incredibles, have another human comedy animation hit on their hands, and the foodies have to love it. Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt),a rat in a French restaurant, helps a hapless lad named Linguini become the five-star restaurant's star chef.

The rat is a rodent realistically realized, homely by contrast with those more pleasant looking in Flushed Away. The human faces of the non-rats are by far the best renditions of reality I have seen in hyper-humanized computer graphics. The restaurant kitchen is so real I wanted to cut onions and crush garlic. But the piece de resistance is Anton Ego, the food critic, as trenchant a criticism of us self-centered, aloof critics as will ever appear on screen.

The voice of Peter O'Toole makes his demeanor even more insipid and scary, his words heavy with moralizing:

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new."

I was humbled and exalted at the same time. Art for art's sake, I say.

Bertolt Brecht said, "Food first, the morality." Well, throw out the moralizing platitudes and eat. Food is the music of Ratatouille, nourishment for all the adults of the family and a primer on kitchens for kids who think good food comes out of a window and through the car window.