In theaters.

When traditional hand-drawn animation studios suffer, commentators often point to Pixar, the shining jewel of American animation, for an explanation. “See?” they say. “The future is in computer animation. Like Pixar.”

That assessment breaks my heart. How can someone look at Toy Story or Finding Nemo or The Incredibles and determine that they owe their superiority to the use of pixels rather than brush strokes? Of course the animation is visually striking, even groundbreaking, but that’s not what makes those movies worth treasuring. Pixar is special not because they use computers or even because they use those computers well. Pixar is special because the people who work there are great storytellers. It really is that simple.

The studio’s latest, Ratatouille, lives up to the Pixar standard with charm, gentle humor, and a love letter to the enduring joy of cooking.