Year of the rat

Pixar serves up another tasty dish in Ratatouille

RATATOUILLE written and directed by Brad Bird, with the voices of Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano and Peter O’Toole. 110 minutes. A Disney/Pixar release. Opens Friday (June 29). Rating: NNNN

Pixar really does make the best children’s movies. None of the other kiddie flicks this summer approach the hilarity of Ratatouille, the story of Remy (voiced by The King Of Queens’ Patton Oswalt), a rat with a nose for haute cuisine.

Finding himself in Paris, Remy hooks up with a hapless kitchen aide named Linguini (Lou Romano of The Incredibles) and, in a gastronomic version of The Front, restores the reputation of a once-proud restaurant called Gusteau’s.

In and of itself, this isn’t terribly radical or gut-busting. But Ratatouille was written and directed by Brad Bird, the guy behind The Incredibles, and while his new movie isn’t as brainy as that one, it has lots of lovely touches to appeal to parents as well as kids.

Take, for example, the fact that Remy controls Linguini by hiding under his hat and yanking on his hair. Yes, a film made with the latest in computer animation features a main character who’s essentially a Muppet. Or the fantastic visual joke where we see, from on high, that the work room of Paris’s most formidable restaurant critic (Peter O’Toole) is shaped like a coffin.

The film takes a few shots at reviewers of all stripes, some fair, some less so, although it’s right to point out that food critics tend to be more influential than, say, movie critics. It generally gets the chef-ing hierarchy right, but anyone who’s worked in the restaurant industry will snicker at the idea that before Remy shows up Gusteau’s is a rat-free kitchen.

In fact, the film’s biggest problem arises from Pixar’s greatest strength: when Remy’s extended family shows up, the hordes of scurrying rats actually look like hordes of scurrying rats. Ratatouille may do well at the box office, but don’t be surprised if reservations at restos decline a bit after it opens.

EVENING [ trailer ]

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