Monday, July 9, 2007


I was a little concerned as we approached the movie-plex to buy tickets for Ratatouille, the new G-rated Pixar/Disney movie. The lobby was packed with folks who looked like they were out for a change of scenery from father/son WWE and Ultimate Fighting. Fortunately for us, the throngs were awaiting "Transformers", enabling us to scoot nimbly past, into air conditioned civility and elbow room.

THIS movie is what the powers behind Disney/Pixar had in mind. The highest level of animation and effects, combined with an engaging script, exploring themes that would engage audiences of all ages. I did not just "tolerate" the story, I got caught up in it, as did my wife and 13 year old daughter.

In Ratatouille, a young rat (Remy) approaching manhood (rat-hood?) has an extraordinary talent. He has a highly refined sense of smell, and an appreciation for the culinary arts. He is inspired by a famous TV chef and his best-selling book "Anyone Can Cook". He wants to leave the rat life of garbage eating and stealing food, which causes conflict with his controlling father, who wants him to stay and become part of rat life and his extended family. He confides in his dopey brother, who wants to support him but does not fully understand Remy.

A series of rat catastrophes cause Remy to be separated from his clan, and he discovers that "all this time we have been under Paris!". He happens upon the restaurant of the famous chef, now deceased, and the back workings of the kitchen of a famous Paris restaurant. The plot is actually quite intricate, and I will not spoil it. Remy becomes deeply involved in the conflicts of many players in the restaurant drama, and he DOES get to use his culinary skills. Many of the characters, human and rodent, are put to high level moral and life altering tests. Can I pay a higher compliment to an animated movie than to say that, throughout, "I felt for all the characters".

Remy was voiced by Patton Oswalt, a comedian I have seen a few times. I did not know this in advance, and for awhile tried to place the vaguely familiar voice. Eventually I stopped trying to figure out the voices, because I was absorbed in the story and the characters. This was a big improvement over celebrity voicing in other animated films. For example, while I enjoyed Finding Nemo, the entire movie I felt Albert Brooks talking to Ellen DeGeneris. In Ratatouille, the characters and story line stood strongly on their own.

I don't know whether the powers that be intend to score with a big marketing and product bonanza on this film. It probably does not lend itself to that. I do think this movie will "have legs" for exactly what a great movie is supposed to, a thoroughly enjoyable watching experience......for the whole family.

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