A fine red wine only gets better with age. Long before that cork is popped and the first pour hits your favorite wine glass, you already know how great that vintage vino is going to taste. Much like that bottle of wine, the animated films from Pixar Studios keep getting better with time. So how appropriate is it that its latest offering, Ratatouille, is all about delicious food, family and friends, and a glass of wine to wash it all down.
Ratatouille is an intricate dish, infused with energetic and amusing storylines that are all fully cooked and complementary to the film's rich visual look. It's easily the best Pixar creation next to The Incredibles; arguably it's even better. No surprise that Ratatouille is written and directed by Brad Bird, the same mastermind behind The Incredibles. Bird excels at integrating thematic elements that will entertain the youngest and oldest members of the audience alike.
The film's unlikely hero is a rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt). He roams the fields of the French countryside with his brother (Peter Sohn), father (Brian Dennehy), and their extended rat pack. Remy loves his family, but isn't content with feeding on yesterday's garbage like all the others. He's got a finer sense of smell that leads him into the house of a local restaurant where every night a gourmet meal is prepared according to the recipes of the great French chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett).
Luckily for Remy, a series of events leads him inside the walls of Gusteau's Parisian restaurant. Unfortunately, Remy's arrival also coincides with big changes in the restaurant's kitchen and a nasty review from the city's top food critic, Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole). Gusteau's new head chef, Skinner (Ian Holm), could care less about cooking up delectable dinners from Gusteau's cookbook that would appease the critics. He's most interested in turning out a new line of frozen microwavable foods; something he says is very American.
Remy goes right to work in the restaurant's kitchen, sprucing up the soup of the day after a garbage boy named Linguini (Lou Romano) has willfully contaminated it. With Remy's changes, the soup becomes a hit and Linguini becomes an unlikely hero. The boy has no clue what rosemary or thyme is, but the rat does. The two form an unlikely partnership where Remy directs Linguini's actions in the kitchen from under his chef's hat. Using Linguini's hair, Remy controls Linguini in much the same way a puppet master guides his marionette. Now, the restaurant is as popular as ever. But how long will it last?
Ratatouille is alive, and full of passion for life and food. The kitchen is aglow with delectable eats that look incredibly inviting. You can almost smell the wonderful aromas floating through the kitchen like that of the freshly baked bread or the simmering soup on the stove. What's even more fascinating is watching the cooks put all the elements together. The chopping of vegetables, the shaking of spices, and the spreading sauce over the finished product is like witnessing poetry in motion.
More than just art, at the core of Ratatouille are wonderful messages for the kids about compassion and determination. Remy is dedicated to improving the lives of his brother and father by providing them with better food and shelter. By letting Linguini take all of the credit for his culinary creations, Remy shows a selflessness that defines true friendship. And in many ways, Remy's difficult journey to achieve an impossible (and improbable) goal proves that even the toughest dreams can come true.
If there is any complaint to be made about Ratatouille, it's the lack of big name celebrity voices in the cast. Who cares? So you can't play the "who's that voice?" guessing game, but why would you need to? There are so many exciting elements to the film -- the genial slapstick comedy and the beautiful photorealistic visual look of Paris -- there's no time for distractions.
Bring your hardiest appetite. Ratatouille is immensely satisfying.
Not the coq au vin!