Hard man John McClane did not fare as well at the box office as expected after being beaten by a rodent culinary genius.

Die Hard 4.0, starring Bruce Willis as the New York McClane, was pipped to the post by the Pixar film Ratatouille.

The rat comedy took an estimated $47.2 million (£23.6 million) in its first week at the box office compared to Die Hard's $33.1 million (£16.5 million).

However, Willis' offering opened midweek and took about $1 million (£500,000) more than the animated flick if its weekend takings were included.

But Ratatouille's performance has impressed the critics and achieved admirable takings for a film that involves a rat, down on his luck, who dreams of becoming a top chef in France.

Chuck Viane, Buena Vista's distribution president, told the Hollywood Reporter: "We're off to a really, really good start.

"The idea of placing it pre-Fourth of July weekend means we'll have a big weekend this weekend and next."

The latest Die Hard picture sees McClane taking on a cyber terrorist in his trade mark blood-splattered vest.

After a lengthy hiatus from the role, Willis was persuaded to take on another instalment despite admitting to finding it far more physically challenging then previous efforts.

Michael Moore's documentary Sicko was placed at number nine in the charts after its nationwide release, taking $4.5 million (£2.2 million).

Sicko examines the US healthcare system and involves a scathing critique from Moore.

02/07/2007 11:25:02