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Remy’s a rat with a keen sense of smell,
Who loves not just eating but cooking as well.
His wish to create, though, attracts a backlash
From Django, his dad, who just wants to steal trash.
Their colony’s forced to abruptly take leave,
And Remy is lost in the sewers to grieve.
The voice of his hero, the late chef Gusteau,
Encourages Remy to rise from below.
He climbs to find Paris, the City of Lights,
And finds Gusteau’s restaurant, which thrills and excites.
When Remy tries fixing a soup in the kitchen,
He’s captured and threatened for trying to pitch in.
However, he’s freed by the awkward Linguini,
A garbage boy who couldn’t boil fettuccine.
He teams with the rat, who can pull on his hair
And cook from beneath the tall hat that chefs wear.
Though Skinner, the head chef, is sure there’s a rat
When some garbage boy begins cooking like that,
He can’t stop Linguini from gaining acclaim
And lifting Gusteau’s from its relative shame.
Linguini must face expectations concerned
And deal with celebrity he hasn’t earned,
While Remy must choose between kitchen and kin
And unearths a secret, to Skinner’s chagrin.
At last, when a critic named Ego arrives
To taste if Gusteau’s reputation survives,
The dish ratatouille reminds of his youth,
An odd revelation of taste and the truth.
Though Ego’s review is a tip of the hat,
Some people just can’t handle food from a rat,
But those who will open their mouths and their minds
Are thrilled by the flavors their tolerance finds.

Yet another Pixar masterpiece, Ratatouille is a film that could have so easily been a ridiculous failure with its absurd concept and rambling narrative, yet Brad Bird did it again, lending outstanding character development to Pixar’s ever-phenomenal animation.

Patton Oswalt will forever be Remy to me. (I know his real voice sounds exactly the same, having seen him on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) As foolhardy as Remy’s dream seems, his vehement arguments with his dad and genuine talent for the culinary arts manifest a passion worth pursuing. Lou Romano is lovably incompetent as Alfredo Linguini (not the other way around), whom Remy uses as a living marionette. True, this is unrealistic, even for a film about talking rat chefs, but it leads to some of the funniest moments, as Remy perfects his follicular puppetry. The rest of the voice actors contribute exuberant performances, obviously enjoying their French accents, including Ian Holm as Chef Skinner, Janeane Garofalo as Colette, and Brad Garrett as Remy’s hero and imagined conscience Chef Gusteau. Plus, Peter O’Toole’s scathing articulations make Anton Ego a truly forbidding presence, albeit with an unforeseen soft side.

The animation is exceptional, one of Pixar’s most detailed depictions of the real world from the perspective of rat and human alike. My VC enjoys pointing out Remy’s adorable feet and sniffing nose, which make him considerably cuter than any rat I’ve seen. Textures and lighting are meticulously rendered, from the rushing water of the sewers to the distant, warm lights of the Eiffel Tower to the food itself, which is as delectable to the eye as to the characters’ taste buds. The atmosphere of Paris is further brought to life by the romantic score from Michael Giacchino. (Lost alert; in addition to scoring Pixar films like this, The Incredibles, and Up, Giacchino has also worked with J.J. Abrams on the Star Trek reboots and Lost.)

In addition to being laugh-out-loud with lethal thumbs and an abundance of slapstick humor, Ratatouille tackles some heavy material as well, including the morality of benign thievery, the expectations of parent and child, and the purpose and responsibility of criticism. Ego’s review, in particular, flew over my head upon my first viewing, but its profound message is a credit to the entire creative and analytical industry. Ratatouille also dares into less kiddy subject matter, such as legal scams, drunken interrogations, a character’s illegitimate child, and the realistic ramifications of a rat in the kitchen (which the film then ignores for the final gratifying scene).

Attempting much more than most animated films and succeeding in every area, Ratatouille is a film that can entertain both children and their parents on different levels. Heart-warming, funny, and appetizing, it was yet another feather in Pixar’s cap.

Best line: (Gusteau) “You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true—anyone can cook… but only the fearless can be great.”

Rank: 58 out of 60

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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