When it comes to animated movies, 2006 hasn't been a year to commit to memory and showed once again that for all the slick animation a strong script is what really counts. So it's fitting then that the year should end with a film that's worth the effort and one which looks a contender for the Oscar in February.

Sophisticated rat Roddy (Jackman) has got it easy. There's no scrounging in sewers for him: his residence is a plush pad in Kensington where everything is laid on. Paradise is interrupted, however, with the arrival of subterranean oik Sid (Richie), an uncouth, leather jacket-wearing rodent who seems intent on giving Roddy an instant ulcer. Desperate to get rid of him, Roddy tries to con his new guest into believing that the toilet is really a jacuzzi, but the sewer smart Sid sees the hustle and flushes Roddy away instead. Now Roddy needs all his wits to survive and before long he's become mixed up with the renegade Rita (Winslet) and on the wrong side of The Toad (McKellen), a gangster with plans to destroy the whole rodent metropolis.

The makers of 'Shrek' (DreamWorks) teaming up with the people behind Wallace & Gromit (Aardman) is one of those 'in a perfect world' collaborations that throws up more exciting possibilities than other films can muster. And while 'Flushed Away' doesn't come close to either the green ogre or the misfit duo's adventures, it has plenty going for it - a great vocal cast, strong characters, superb attention to detail and some good laughs. Here Jackman's mission to show that no genre is beyond him continues and he puts in a fine performance as the pampered Roddy while Winslet is perfectly cast as the feisty Rita. Their co-stars are all excellent too, with Jean Reno as contract killer Le Frog deserving his own big screen adventure.

There are times when the script could have been sharper with even more jokes for adults, but that's a small complaint for a film that is engaging the whole way through and, unlike many of its peers, has the potential for a sequel.

Harry Guerin