CAPSULE: RATATOUILLE has an engaging enough premise, but does not really have a good story to tell. The first third of the film is much more engaging than the remainder. The furry rat who is the main character is expressive and winning, but the human characters do not give him much support and the story pulls in too many directions. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) was born with a taste for the finer things in life. He knows food and not only has a highly cultured palette; he has a supernatural talent for cooking French haute cuisine. You can just tell that Remy is headed for a lot of frustration since he is, after all, a rat, and kitchens are off limits to rats. Most people who see a rat in a kitchen immediately go after it with a cleaver or sometimes a shotgun. Remy's chances of ever getting to test his talents in a kitchen seem small, but hey, this is a cartoon. A chain of events chases Remy away from a farmhouse kitchen and washes him into a storm drain and out again. He finds himself in the center of Paris and at the very foundation of the restaurant founded by Remy's hero, the famous Chef Gusteau. But Remy still has to overcome the whole rat-in-a-kitchen problem. Luckily the garbage boy at Gusteau's discovers Remy. Linguini (Lou Romano) has been hired reluctantly by the tyrannical Chef Skinner (Ian Holm) on the specific proviso that Linguini never tries to cook. But Remy can cook using Linguini as his hands.
The story of RATATOUILLE is a good cut beneath previous Pixar/Disney animation films. It almost feels as though whenever writer/director Brad Bird could not figure out how to make the plot work, he added a contrivance or a coincidence to push the plot along. Remy idolizes Chef Gusteau and a flood and a storm drain contrive to deposit him in Paris exactly at the chef's restaurant. How can a rat silently direct Linguini's cooking? Well, it just turns out that Linguini has a peculiar muscular reflex that no other human has ever had, but it turns out to be just precisely what Remy needs to run the show. At various points various people know that Gusteau's restaurant has what appears to be a rat problem. Only one person does anything about it, and that is unrealistically insufficient. Yet Gusteau's Restaurant's fine reputation is never damaged. This is a film that has too many bad guys doing too many different things. The bad chef is victimizing Linguini while the bad critic is victimizing the restaurant. A villain is vanquished two-thirds the way into the film in what seems like a big climax, but he still hangs around threateningly without doing very much. There is a romance, but neither the boy nor the girl is particularly likable.
A film like this needs a nice well-defined plot. FINDING NEMO, a previous Pixar/Disney film, had a clear, clean plot. Nemo is taken and the film is about the how Nemo is rescued. RATATOUILLE does not have such a clear plot. Remy wants to cook and eat what he cooks. Linguini is not sure what he wants other than to hold onto his job and get the girl. Chef Skinner is nasty and may want to be rid of Linguini, but his chief goal does not clearly connect with the main characters. The villainous, egotistical critic just wants people to know where to get good food and is willing to be a little sarcastic along the way. That actually should help Linguini and Remy, not threaten them.
RATATOUILLE is funny and imaginative. I will not say the animation is great, not because it isn't, but because *every* Pixar film has great animation and breaks new ground. The visual element is very fine, but the script was frequently unsatisfying. On balance it is a good film and I rate it a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. As is becoming the custom with animated releases, RATATOUILLE comes packaged with a supporting cartoon. In this case it is "Lifted", in which an incompetent teenager-like alien tries to abduct a human with a levitation beam. It was funny enough, though younger children in the audience were asking why aliens would kidnap humans, and come to think of it so was I.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0382932/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2007 Mark R. Leeper