COMMANDER AND CHEF

In a summer where the movie menu is awfully derivative, leave it to the geniuses at Pixar to serve originality on a platter. These guys are up for a challenge and this time, of all the creatures in the world, they choose a vermin as a likable protagonist. Voiced by Patton Oswalt, Remy is a scrappy rat, which considers food as something special, as something sustaining in many ways. He owes this appreciation to his nose. It is a nose that knows what a food withholds, whether it be a tasty treat or a pinch of poison. Naturally, Remy develops a passion for cooking, to become a maestro of orchestrating flavors. He finds inspiration from a plump chef on TV named Chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett).

One unfortunate day, an old lady uncovers Remy’s rat colony. Granny gets her gun, chases the rat pack, and blasts them out of her home. The creatures scamper into a perilous drainage system and Remy, the poor thing left behind, is separated from the group. Remy drifts miserably alone, but to his surprise, he ends up under the city of Paris, near Gusteau’s famous restaurant. It is here the rat encounters his eventual sidekick – a tall and gawky kitchen worker named Linguini (Lou Romano). The unlikely duo teams up to form a culinary persona. Remy, with skills of a cooking god, commands Linguini, he with the inconspicuous human bod.

In Ratatouille, we are spoiled once again by the Pixar’s first-rate animation. It is amazing how the animators have improved in details, capturing even the realistic behavior of a rat’s fur. What is also impressive here is the kinetic camerawork. The thrilling action scenes have the camera scurrying alongside Remy. The film also takes us along narrow spaces and shows us the expansive point of view of a little rodent. Accompanying the visuals is a fun and whimsical music by Michael Giacchino (very different from his usual work from TV’s Alias and Lost). It is one of the best movie scores so far. Light and fanciful – reminiscent of Amelie and Chocolat.

The most savory part of Ratatouille is the relationship between Remy and Linguini. They cannot speak each other’s language, but through body language, the two cooking friends connect. It’s pretty cute, inspirational, funny, and a bit heartbreaking. The film’s general humor is quite low-key. Viewers with narrow-minded view of comedy, those who count laughs by hand, will be disappointed. Director Brad Bird aims for long-lasting smiles – employing comical suspense and choreographed clumsiness. There is also a notable dollop of cooking joy stirred into the film’s concoction. Yummy. Perhaps, the movie’s secret ingredient is the slow build up of drama between Remy and Linguini. Granted, you do have to suspend your disbelief (duh, he’s a rat) and yet the movie surprisingly evolves more realistically than it should. The end is not achieved so easily, as one would assume in a Disney movie. It is another slice of risk the men at Pixar is willing to take. In the end, they’ve cooked up something too delicious and innovative to resist. Bon apetit.

Grade: A

Featuring the voices of
Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O’Toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, and Will Arnett
Story by
Brad Bird
Jim Capobianco
Jan Pinkava
Additional Story by
Emily Cook and Kathy Greenberg
Directed by
Brad Bird
Rated G
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