"Comes as something of a disappointment, this is the first Pixar film that one suspects could have been done live-action."

Remy the rat (Patton Oswalt) dreams of better things than scavenging. Things begin to look up when circumstances contrive to deposit him at the restaurant of his chef hero, Gusteau (Brad Garrett). However, the great Gusteau has expired and the restaurant is being run by the nefarious Skinner (Ian Holm). An odd alliance between Remy and the newly hired garbage boy, Linguini (Lou Romano), soon begins to change the lives of both of them.

In 1995, Toy Story changed the face of the animated movie courtesy of computers. Not only were the visuals terrific, but the story was solid, the characters well defined and everything was better than one could wish from any kind of animated feature. Fortunately Disney’s traditional animated fare was also going through a renaissance with The Lion King et al, so one couldn’t say for sure that that the old format was doomed. Over the coming years various other companies have tried to emulate Pixar’s success but Pixar never put an animated foot wrong; they refined the technique without losing their story-telling skills. Ratatouille is the 8th major release from Pixar and has much in common with its peers as well as bringing something new to the table.

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The biggest change comes as something of a disappointment, this is the first Pixar film that one suspects could have been done live-action a la Stuart Little. There is nothing in the film that really excited my inner computer nerd. No equal to, say, the manic shark chase in Finding Nemo, or the endless vista of dimensional doors in Monsters, Inc. That’s not to say the film is by any means visually bland, the Paris scenery is beautifully rendered and always contrives to include the Eiffel Tower somehow. If this were a live-action film, one would conclude that they had a lower budget than previous efforts (In fact, Ratatouille cost $8,000,000 more than The Incredibles!).

The voice cast is excellently chosen, with an unrecognisable Ian Holm as the conniving chief chef and a languorous Peter O’Toole as the cadaverous food critic who must be appeased by the finale. Could this be Pixar’s apology for all the French bashing prevalent in the US, in that although the French are played as a mix of good guys and bad - the rats all sport American accents?

Breaking with the traditional Pixar ‘toon, we almost have a love interest in Janeane Garofalo’s feisty chef, but this doesn't get in the way of the narrative. If Pixar want a challenge for their next film, they might consider rendering a more fully rounded leading lady.

The plot follows the by-the-numbers chase-your-dreams-you-can-do-anything-if-you-set-your-heart-to-it beloved of American movies. Although this manifests itself in peculiar fashion with the Willard meets Hell's Kitchen plot line in this tale of a boy and his manipulative, cooking rat-in-a-hat.

All in all a very pleasant way to pass 110 minutes with disbelief suspended, but the talky nature of the flick might fail to please the youngest members of the audience.

Bonus: The film is accompanied by a Pixar short entitled Lifted, concerning a UFO's bungled efforts to abduct a human. It's a (Wilhelm) scream.

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2007
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The best cooked meals of mice and men.
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Director: Brad Bird

Writer: Brad Bird

Starring: Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Janeane Garofalo, Peter O'Toole, Brad Garrett, Brian Dennehy, Will Arnett, Peter Sohn

Year: 2007

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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