|Directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava|
|Written by Brad Bird, Jim Capobianco, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Jan Pinkava|
Set in Paris, Ratatouille revolves around Remy, a rat gourmet with a hyper-sensitive palate, who uses his enhanced sense and cooking skills to help Linguini, a young dishwasher who accidentally becomes a chef at the famous Parisian restaurant Gusteau's, founded by the eponymous late chef. Chef Gusteau's former assistant Skinner now manages the formerly five-star bistro and even uses the legendary chef's persona to sell a line of decidedly down-scale frozen dinners.
Unable to communicate with humans, Remy, voiced by the likable Patton Oswalt -- formerly of King of Queens, controls Linguini's movements through the unlikely means of tugging on the young chef's hair while hiding underneath his toque, similar to a puppeteer and his puppet. This leads to several comical incidents, especially in encounters with the only female chef in the restaurant, Colette. Expertly voiced by Janeane Garofalo, Colette befriends the confused and frightened Liguini.
Food critic and long-time Gusteau nemesis Anton Ego, played by the always excellent Peter O'Toole, completes the restaurant tableau. Initially appearing as a classic Disney-style villain, Ego thoughtfully explores the nature of creativity and criticism.
More than a movie about cartoon rats and food, Ratatouille explores the well-trodden territory of characters reaching beyond their limitations and overcoming the obstacles to their dreams with a little help from their friends. Remy's relationships with his huge extended pack as he struggles with his dream of being a chef and Liguini overcoming his fears of... well, almost everything form the core of this charming film.
Like most Pixar productions, Ratatouille presents beautiful computer-generated animation with an intelligent and entertaining story. Their DVDs typically abound with interesting extras, additional cartoons, and hidden easter eggs.
Not only does Ratatouille include the animated short "Lifted," which originally appeared with the movies's theatrical release, but also features the highly entertaining original short "Your Friend the Rat." Rendered in a combination of traditional and computer-generated animation styles, Remy (Patton Oswalt) and his brother Emile (Peter Sohn) recount the history and occasionally positive aspects of rat-human relations. Did you know that the black rat (rattus rattus) first arrived in the West after hitching a ride with the Crusaders? Or that rats weren't the cause of the plague but rather it started with fleas? Remy and Emile present these fascinating facts and a lot more in a friendly, non-icky way, successfully showcasing the more appealing aspects of the vermin.
The other original piece "Fine Food & Film" documents the similarities between a chef and a director. The interspersed interviews of Ratatouille co-director/co-writer Brad Bird and critically acclaimed chef Thomas Keller establishes the parallels inherent in both vocations. Though not as interesting as it should be, this short film does offer some amusing behind-the-scene glimpses of these at times arcane worlds.
As per usual, the deleted scenes accompany the movie and add absolutely nothing of consequence to the original film. The saving grace of these forgettable extras are the use of Bird's original designs and sketches for each clip, giving a unique glimpse into the storyboarding process.
An amusing easter egg short resides on the title screen, hidden on the stove top beneath the Your Friend the Rat (It disappears quickly after loading the disc, so you better hit it fast.), asks the animators, voice actors, and even chef Keller two questions: What were some of the other possible titles for Ratatouille? and how do you pronounce "ratatouille"? Turns out there were four pages of suggested titles including Petite Chef, Cooking with Rats, Ratz, and The Little Chef That Could. As difficult as ratatouille can be to pronounce, it sounds like they picked the right name for yet another Pixar classic.
When not playing with books, Rick Klaw produces reviews and articles for The Austin Chronicle, Moving Pictures, RevolutionSF, SF Site, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and other venues. His brief forays into short fiction have appeared in Electric Velocipede and Cross Plains Universe. Klaw's writings were collected in Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century (MonkeyBrain).
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