Related story: Make your own Ratatouille with this recipe.
AA fine tail: Animators manage to give movie about rats some delicious imagery
There's a rat in the kitchen, and he's no stale cheese nibbler. He's a foodie with a mission -- to become a gourmet chef. And it's this cleverness that makes "Ratatouille" so delicious -- the animated equivalent to a fine-dining experience, if you will. We meet a rat named Remy (with the voice of Patton Oswalt of "King of Queens"), who isn't your typical rodent. His family tells him to stay away from humans and to eat whatever he can steal. They're rats, after all, and stealing is their calling card. But Remy thinks life could be much better. He walks upright so he won't dirty his hands and spoil his food, and he idolizes a chef he sees on television, the famous French sensation Gusteau (Brad Garrett). His family thinks he's a snob, but he's just dreaming of a better life -- one he can carve out on his own. "We're not birds, we're rats," his father tells him. "We don't leave the nest, we make it bigger." In one trying afternoon, Remy first discovers that Gusteau has died, and he becomes separated from his entire family. He's all alone in a strange sewer, hungry and desperate. But with the help of his subconscious -- an imaginary vision of Gusteau -- Remy discovers he's been swept away to Paris, his gastronomical paradise. Remy finds Gusteau's famous restaurant, but it's in sad shape. After Gusteau's death, his pencil-mustached right-hand man has taken over, and the place has swiftly lost two of its prestigious five stars. Then a bumbling, unconfident boy named Linguini (Lou Romano) swings by looking for a job as the new garbage boy. His late mother had a close relationship with Gusteau, so he's reluctantly hired. Once Remy helps Linguini make a fantastic soup, they begin a partnership for the record books. Remy holds the reigns while Linguini makes the food, and it turns out, the rat can really cook. As the rest of the movie rolls along, we're treated to dish after dish of fantastic detail, something easily expected from Oscar-winning director and writer Brad Bird ("The Incredibles"). The kitchen resembles something you would see in a real restaurant, full of simmering copper saute pans and fresh ingredients -- leeks, thyme and even freshly zested lemons (complete with Microplane zesters, of course). You can almost smell the scallops simmering in white wine sauce. Popcorn suddenly seems very low brow. Like other recent Disney/Pixar collaborations, "Ratatouille" leans on your emotions and has you from the first minute. After all, they're masters at making you want to cuddle with clown fish, chat with pick-up trucks, and now, let rats do your cooking. But trust them, they know what they're doing. The characters are so genuine and the animation so mesmerizing that you'll find yourself wishing you could stroll around the corner in Paris for a light supper. Like the snooty restaurant critic Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O'Toole), we enter "Ratatouille" thinking we've tasted it all, and we leave hoping for seconds.
Kim Brown 581-8474
Stars: voices of Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Brad Garrett, Peter O'Toole
Theaters: Promenade, Tulsa, Starworld, Riverwalk, Owasso, Eton Square, Admiral Twin Drive-in, Broken Arrow, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, Claremore, Pryor
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Quality: 3.5 STARS
(on a scale of zero to four stars)