Writer/director Brad Bird’s animated version of The Iron Giant made him the obvious candidate to follow on from John Lasseter’s innovative groundwork at Pixar, where he scored an immediate hit with The Incredibles. So even though Ratatouille is another entry in the constant stream of animations about animals, the latest opus is a tasty dish for all ages.
From the sewers of Paris, a rat called Remy (Patton Oswald) emerges with a passionate desire to become the greatest chef in Paris, blessed with a finely tuned sense of smell that makes the hero of Patrick Süskind’s Perfume seem positively bunged up. Remy’s progress through the world of haute cuisine is initially blocked by the low regard with which he and his rodent friends are held in by the fastidious foodies of the French capital. Not one to be disheartened by such prejudice, Remy forms an unusual partnership with another aspiring cook, this time in human form, the gormless Linguini (Lou Romano). Through an ingenious system of hair-tugs, Remy and Linguini devise a system whereby Remy controls his human friend’s culinary skills like a marionette from inside Linguini’s chef’s hat, a deception which works, but can only last for so long . . .
At its best, Pixar offers audiences both three-dimensional images and storytelling, with Ratatouille’s extra dimension coming from its thoughtful consideration of the relationship between the creative process and friendship. Yet Bird’s colourful production never stints on fast, furious fun, with plenty of sight-gags and chases through the streets, waterways, sewers and dinner-tables of Paris. The scrupulous attention to the depiction of food even contrives to make Remy’s cooking look tastier than the real thing. Ian Holm, Steve Buscemi and Pixar regular John Ratzenberger all pop up to good effect, but it’s Peter O’Toole who steals the shows as restaurant critic Anton Ego. In one delightful scene, Ego experiences a spiritual rebirth through a taste of Remy’s cooking that mirrors the way our jaded world has rediscovered the joys of cartoon entertainment since the advent of Pixar.
General release from Fri 12 Oct.