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‘Ratatouille’ a goulash of ingenuity

Shauna Farnell
Vail, CO, Colorado

Chefs, food and wine lovers and those who appreciate quality animation will likely declare “Ratatouille” a work of genius. Everyone else will be hard-pressed to admit the new cartoon from Brad Bird (also the mastermind behind “The Incredibles”) is anything less than really cute and clever.

“Ratatouille” is the most incredible animated film I’ve seen since “The Incredibles” … and that’s coming from someone with a serious revulsion for rodents. The revulsion hasn’t necessarily subsided ” the next encounter with an unwelcome household critter certainly won’t end in me offering it fine Gouda and a glass of wine ” but “Ratatouille” does provide a new angle on the underground world of garbage-eating mammals.

Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt) is not a good rat. He’s a black sheep among his species who hates sucking down rotten fruit, chicken bones and candy wrappers and isn’t very skilled when it comes to rifling through dumpsters and garages to find such treasures. His job in the colony, which happens to be governed by his father, is to use his ultra-sensitive schnoz to sniff out food containing rat poison.

The colony makes a point of steering clear of the kitchen area of the house it occupies, which is inhabited by an old woman who frequently falls asleep in front of famed French chef Gusteau’s cooking program. What more motivation does Remy need for regular reconnaissance missions into the house for a little afternoon TV?

Remy makes several attempts to entice his brother into the magic of fine food. During one such tutorial, Remy searches stealthily through the old lady’s kitchen for a bit of saffron to add to the gourmet mushroom and cheese he’s found and charred to near perfection with a bolt of lightening. During this mission, Remy discovers from the TV that his hero Gusteau has just passed away. Shortly thereafter, much to the brother rats’ terror, grandma wakes up and goes after them with a shotgun. A bit out of practice, granny accidentally blows a huge hole in her ceiling, unveiling the entire colony of rats, all of which run for their lives.

Not wanting to leave without Gusteau’s “Anyone Can Cook” cookbook behind in the kitchen, Remy falls back during the sewer exodus and gets separated from the group.

Remy is alone in the cold, rodent-hating world, with nobody to talk to save Gusteau, who has transformed into something like to an angel on his shoulder.

Remy’s spirits improve when he suddenly discovers for the first time that he is in Paris, France, home to the finest cuisine in the world.

With the apparition of Gusteau, Remy takes a peek into the late chef’s restaurant and spies the troubling scene of a new garbage boy, Linguini, attempting to spice up a fine soup.

Remy steps in and saves the day, repairing the soup with his own selection of spices. Linquini is the only one in the kitchen who witnesses the horrific scene of a rat messing with the soup, but can’t stop it before a bowl is swept out to the dining room.

As it turns out, the soup is a huge hit, Linguini gets all the credit, Remy is spotted and given to Linguini to dispose of.

Instead, the two form a duo of masterful culinary deception, Linguini under the guise of a prodigy and Remy yanking his arms into motion while hiding out under his tall hat.

The characters are impeccable – Linguini the epitome of shy clumsiness, Remy a humble four-legged culinary genius, Colette, the kitchen’s only female member, a fantastically feisty French chick and Anton Ego the quintessential snooty-nosed, overanalyzing, forlorn food critic.

Every facial expression in this cartoon is delivered like its own private drama, and the dialogue is stacked with sparkling gems of witticism.

After seeing “Ratatouille,” you probably won’t love rats or hope that the critters in your basement come upstairs to cook you dinner, but, as Anton Ego received cooked-to-order at Gusteau’s, this film will offer you a dose of light-hearted perspective.


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