You probably already know the basic premise: a rat with culinary talent winds up the secret genius in a Parisian restaurant. Not the most promising of ideas, right? Mercifully, director Brad Bird (THE IRON GIANT, THE INCREDIBLES) keeps the story lively and the characters interesting, but there's an intimacy to RATATOUILLE that was completely missing from Pixar's last outing, the dismal CARS. The epicurean rodent Remy's relationship with his human friend, the hapless chef's assistant Linguini, never descends into the kind of tired sidekickery that characterizes the SHREK franchise, and the little romance that develops between Linguini and his kitchenmate Colette doesn't feel shoe-horned into the story.
The animation, as usual with Pixar, is wonderful. The character animation is terrific, lots of wonderful little gestures abound. One little moment keeps coming back to me, a little shake of the finger that Remy delivers to himself when he remembers a missing ingredient to a soup recipe, a sort of "ah-ha!" gesture that beggars description. Think about it: they actually capture the look on somebody's face when they smell something delicious. And there's no shortage of Cool Big Scenes. There's a lot of fun to be had in watching Remy scurry through the kitchen, using ladles for a ladders and dodging giant cleavers, and a sequence involving Remy learning how to transmit his directions to Linguini by turning him into a sort of living marionette would have delighted Buster Keaton.
And so on. I liked the film a lot. A lot. The film is also just plain GORGEOUS. It doesn't go for the visual gusto the way that CARS did, with its lingering views of the car-inspired landscapes and neon-lit night scenes. The world of RATATOUILLE is different from any Pixar has done before, the light feels more like Vermeer than anything else. But there are plenty of gorgeous views of Paris, and some jaw-dropping camerawork, especially one particularly wonderful sequence following Remy's journey through the walls of a building, as he samples the goings-on in assorted apartments through holes in the masonry.
One thing about the movie is bugging me, though, and I don't want to go into too much detail about the plot lest I give away any dread Spoilers. The film seems to deliver a rather carefully worded rebuke to critics toward the end of the film, telling us that even the most sloppily created work of food (or art) is more important than any work of criticism written about that work of food (or art), and I'm sorry, I just don't see it at all. I'll need to see the film again to get a better handle on what it means in this regard.
Do I think you should see it? Absolutely. See it in a theatre with the best possible projection and sound. Go now.