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"Nice ingredients, but a little over stuffed" 

Stars: (voices of) Patton Oswalt, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garafalo, Ian Holm, Lou Romano and Brian Dennehy
Director/Scriptwriter: Brad Bird
Buena Vista/Pixar (animated)
Rating: G
Running Length: 105 minutes

I get excited about Pixar films for a couple of reasons. One, they always have an animated short that runs before the feature that is often just as rewarding as the feature film itself. Two, it is Pixar and so you know it will not be a fluff piece regurgitated for younger viewers only. I was interested to see what they would do with a rat in Paris who wants to be a gourmet chef and has a nose for fine cuisine. That alone is funny. But funny enough for almost 120 minutes of footage? That was the wrinkle. Like a rat after cheese the smart thing would have been a fast, in and out adventure. Not so much with Ratatouille which had a few extra side dishes that could have been left on the shelf.

This was not a beating to set through by any means. The look and style were totally up to Pixar standards. The design of each character gave them a personality that was obvious before they ever spoke a word of dialogue. They are funny, unique creations. Skinner (Ian Holm-voice) is exactly how you would expect an animated head chef of a fine French restaurant to perform. From his height to the eye movement and facial features. Very humorous. I wish they would have spent more time developing and utilizing the other kitchen characters as well. They gave you interesting, quick glimpses but never took it to the next level.

The main negative issue I have with the film is the amount of side drama that they tried to play out. It was too serious in places, even for adults, and this gave it a tendency to drag in spots. We understand that Remy (Patton Oswalt-voice) is trying to break out of the Rat culture and find his inner calling. We don't need him emoting on this so much. Just show us the rat cooking. That's all we need. It surely isn't needed for the younger viewers. They laughed the hardest when characters fell down or were hit in the head with pots and pans. For the older members it was the realism of characters like the over the top food critique Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole-voice) that draw our attention. He gives a review at the end that was a jab to critics everywhere and spot on. It was almost a dare to film critics to not take themselves so seriously and just enjoy the film.

Ratatouille is rated PG and like all Pixar animation a fun time for all. The violence and peril are cartoonish and in no way scary. It is a simple tale of a mouse who loves to cook. Like this review it is a bit longer that was necessary and sometimes takes itself too seriously. Still I give it 3 out of 5 sprinkles of lemon zest. Not sure this will become a classic in the vain of Toy Story or Monsters Inc. but certainly not a bad afternoon at the movies for you and the kids. Just know before you go. With a look at Ratatouille, I'm Matt Mungle

The Mungle (06/25/07)

"Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and hosts the weekly syndicated Indie Rock Radio Show Spin 180. Plus with his wife Cindy they do a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies. For additional reviews and interview clips visit the website"


Ratatouille (actually a French farmers dish) tells the story of Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt sounding like Richard Dreyfuss), a gray rat, who lives in the French countryside and longs to be a master chef. This is like Lassie wanting to be a show cat or Garfield wanting to be a police dog. Fact is, Remy can cook pretty well. This is really playing against type, as rats are supposed to eat anything they can get their paws on, including people. Animation is by Pixar which means is it realistic to the nth degree. 

The story begins in the French countryside, home of an old woman who has a cookbook that Remy has read. "Anyone Can Cook" is the book written by top Paris chef named Gusteau (voice of Brad Garrett.) Eventually, in a hilarious chase scene, Remy is discovered in the woman's kitchen, and the entire rat colony must flee to Paris to survive. Remy finds himself by Gusteau's restaurant, learning the chef has died and his assistant (voice of Ian Holm) now runs the place with military precision. In the meantime, a young kitchen helper Linguini (voice of Lou Romano) works in the restaurant and wants to be a chef, but just can't cook. Accidentally, a soup that Remy has changed is taken out to customers, who rave about it. It is thought Linguini did the soup, so he is promoted to "soup chef"  to the dismay of the only woman chef in the kitchen, Colette (voice of Janeane Garafalo) who works hard for her chef's identity. Can Remy figure out a way for Linguini to cook while Remy sits under his hat silently giving directions?  Of course, people are suspicious and rats in the kitchen are verboten. In the meantime, Remy is united with his family and decisions must be made, such as will Remy continue to give cooking directions, or will Linguini date the lady chef or can the restaurant get a good review from food critic Ego (voice of Peter O'Toole) or will people will discover that there are rats in the kitchen?

Animation is wonderfully done and some chase scenes are spectacular, especially the ones through the French countryside or inside the kitchen. There is a great amount of detail here. Humor comes from meeting the arrogant food critic Ego for the first time (think Boris Karloff here) or the ways Remy the rat gets things done in the kitchen. The characterizations of Remy and Linguini go together well, but some characters, such as the current chef-in-charge (Holm) are over the top. This film is rated "G" but I have reservations about rats in the kitchen. Frankly, it was stomach-churning. However, people in the audience the day I saw the film were laughing. Remember, this is not a white rat, but a gray one. Sanitation? Almost there.

With a "G" rating, I'd like to know how parents can explain this film to children, who may find the chase scenes interesting, but the adult situations confusing. Colette's tough-as-nails attitude, for example. So, Ratatouille has imaginative animation, creative characters, but the use of a gray rat and his garbage-eating family is questionable.

Copyright 2007 Marie Asner



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