Ratatouille

 
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by:Brad Bird
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter O’Toole, Peter Sohn, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Will Arnett
Released: September 6, 2007
Grade: A

After dishing out bad review on pretty much every animated film since The Incredibles (released in December 2004), my faith in animation has been restored with Ratatouille.  It’s a terrific film with a rather odd title.  It’s pronounced ra-ta-too-ee and for those not familiar, you’ll find out exactly what it means when you see the movie.

The central character in this delightful adventure is a rat named Remy (Oswalt).  Unlike the rest of his family, Remy hates eating food left in the garbage.  He has a heightened sense of taste which makes him a very fussy eater.  He’d love to be able to find fresh ingredients and cook up delicious meals for everyone to share.  Food is his passion.

It all goes wrong for Remy whilst trying to steal food from the home of an old lady.  She catches him in the act and comes after him with a shotgun (in a rather humorous fashion).  The whole colony of rats is then discovered and they flee for the nearest sewer.  In the mayhem that follows, Remy is separated from his family and he ends up lost under the streets of Paris.

When he pops his head above the surface, Remy is stunned to find himself outside a restaurant known as Gusteau’s.  Several years ago, it was one of the city’s most highly regarded restaurants.  It all turned sour however after a bad review from a leading food critic named Anton Ego.  It was too much for chef Auguste Gusteau who died not long after.

The restaurant is still open but it has never returned to its former glories.  It is now run by a Skinner, a spiteful chef who is looking to cash in on Gusteau’s good name.  Instead of focusing on the restaurant, Skinner has been selling a range of microwaveable dinners in supermarkets.  One of my favourite brand names was “Gusteau’s Tooth-Pick’n Chicken.”

Working as a cleaner at the restaurant is a young boy named Linguini.  He’s been struggling to hold down a job and it doesn’t look like he’ll last long here either.  The only thing he seems to be good at is making mistakes.

On one busy evening, Remy sneaks into the kitchen, pushes a few ingredients into a boiling pot and creates a delicious soup.  No one sees the rat of course and they all think this new soup was somehow created by the clumsy cleaner.  Only Linguini knows what really happened and it gives him an idea.  This unlikely duo develops a partnership whereby Remy will come up with the recipes and Linguini will do the cooking.  It will be their little secret.

If you want to keep someone’s attention, you have to be a good storyteller.  Writer-director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) has proven that in Ratatouille.  My plot description above (which is longer than what I’d usually write) only scratches the surface of what is a rich, intricate tale.  There’s a message to be taken from the film but it’s not force-fed down your throat like many recent animated flicks.  First and foremost, Bird’s film tells a great story.

In doing so, Bird and his team of collaborators have come up with some brilliant characters.  Linguini and Remy (voiced by unknown actors Patton Oswalt and Lou Romano) are immensely likeable and I was cheering for them all the way through.  I particularly loved hearing veteran actor Peter O’Toole voice the food critic, Anton Ego.  There’s a terrific monologue from O’Toole at the end of the film where he speaks of the “bitter truth” about being a critic.

Even if you can’t pronounce the title, make sure you don’t pass up the tasty dish which is Ratatouille.