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Ratatouille: Movie Review

Genre: Animation/Comedy
Rated: G
Directed by:
Brad Bird
Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter O'Toole, Janeane Garofalo
Released by: Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation

In Short: Pixar concocts an animated delicacy, mixing the story of a culinarily creative rodent with heaping measures of wit and artistry.


Cinema Vermine, Well-Done
Fine Family Fare
by Matt Kane

Historically, animated vermin have held an intriguing if not oft-clichéd place in the heart of American pop culture. Films like The Secret of NIMH or An American Tale have used anthropomorphized mice or rats as a metaphor for an impoverished working class swept into a world they find terrifyingly more grand than their humble beginnings, but who are ultimately saved by unflinching senses of self and purpose. On the other hand, the poor critters are also prone to comical and near-tragic jeopardy involving household pets and devices. Believe it or not, the skillful combination of both of these themes has made Pixar and Disney’s Ratatouille one of the best films of the year.

The CGI-crafted tale follows a rat named Remy (voiced by Patton Oswald), who finds himself on the streets of Paris after being swept away from his family and country home. French citizenship might begin to explain Remy’s powerful attraction to the culinary arts, which soon leads him into the bustling Parisian kitchen at Gusteau. Remy earns the attention of the restaurant’s brand new garbage boy, Linguini. Boy befriends rat, rat agrees to help boy, and before long the two have cooked up a system of illogical puppetry that lets Remy ply his beloved trade while Linguini is toasted as the hottest new chef in town.

Ian Holm is the voice of Skinner
Remy in Ratatouille

From there on out, the film’s plot meanders through a few too many characters and conflicts for it to ever locate the same emotional satisfaction of The Incredibles or Finding Nemo, but its truly standout pleasures lie elsewhere. Without a doubt, this is a film to be appreciated on the big screen, as that’s the best vantage point to get the full benefit of its remarkable artistry. Ratatouille’s rats showcase painstaking detail, eerily authentic movements, and more expressive facial contortions than the actors voicing them can keep up with. Trailing close behind in notable achievements is the attention paid to the creation of the film’s many edible delicacies, which not only impressively ape authentic French plate compositions, but go so far as to visually convey the food’s sensate presence. You can practically smell the simmering Gruyère and Béchamel.   

Remy & Linguini

In addition to indulging in the finer details of French cuisine, Ratatouille also manages to combine exhilarating kinetic momentum with choreographed action sequences rivaling the best classic animation, not to mention every blockbuster film of the summer. Thankfully though, all of this visual intelligence is matched by the film’s thematic intelligence, provided by writer/director Brad Bird’s incisive script. It’s hard to imagine that a big-budget animated movie made in conjunction with Disney could climax with an eloquent treatise on the critic’s role and the artist’s soul (from a phenomenal Peter O’Toole as restaurant critic Antono Ego), but Bird’s willingness to sacrifice marketability for quality is one of the factors that makes him one of the greatest mainstream filmmakers working today. Yes, parents, your kids will like this film—but a few of you may genuinely love it.

(Updated 10/12/12 KK)

The kinds of movies made for foodies, including classics such as Like Water for Chocolate and newer releases like Chef and Ratatouille.

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