Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Ever since Walt Disney hit it big by not only creating Mickey Mouse, but also
turning him into a worldwide pop culture icon, audiences have been enamored of
cute animated critters with human characteristics. Now some eighty years after
Mickey came on the scene, the Pixar Company, which is now owned by Disney, brings
us Ratatouille, in which Remy, an ordinary French rat with a superb sense
of smell and taste, longs to become a famous chef. He is a big fan of Chef Gusteau,
an author and TV personality who also owns one of the best and most popular Parisian
bistros. Gusteau's mantra is "anyone can cook," and Remy believes him... to the
point he imagines Gusteau talking to and encouraging this rat to pursue his dream.
As in the story lines for many of the Disney / Pixar films, Remy is separated
from his family, and the rest of the "rat pack," while trying to
escape imminent doom. He finds himself whisked away downstream only to end up
in Paris very near Gusteau's restaurant. Unfortunately, the great chef
has passed away. Gusteau's second in command, a miserable swill of a man
who is anticipating inheriting Gusteau's empire, is running his restaurant.
Remy makes friends with Linguini, a bumbling young lad who has no talent for
cooking, but manages to get a job at the restaurant as a janitor. The two of
them, they decide, might make one good chef, as Remy obviously can't do
it himself. Especially since rats are not particularly welcome in the kitchen
of any establishment.
That's the basic set-up. There are other characters, and subplots about
the snobbiest of food critics, Remy reuniting with his family, and Gusteau's
will, but we all know how it will gel in the end. And that's ok. The film
looks terrific, the original music by Michael Giacchino is good, the cute parts
are really cute, and the voices are fine, especially Peter O'Toole as
the critic. Other voices are provided by the likes of Brad Garrett, Janeane
Garafolo, Brian Dennehy, Ian Holm, and, appropriately, John Ratzenberger.
But, Ratatouille does have its problems. At 110 minutes, the film is too long
by at least a half-hour, which means there's quite a bit of repetition
in the action scenes. The "message" scenes, meant to convey positive
food for thought for the kids in the audience, get a bit heavy-handed and talky,
which also drags the pacing down. And, it seems a bit too deep for the younger
However, those are comparatively minor quibbles, compared to the joys of the
"good stuff." There's definitely enough here to like and admire.
As seems to be the norm lately, the best part of the show is the five-minute
cartoon at the beginning. It's called Lifted, also produced by Pixar,
and is without question the funniest five minutes spent in a theatre all year.
Do not be late for your show time; you definitely don't want to miss this