Pixar’s “Ratatouille” turns animation into a fine art

Pixar’s “Ratatouille” is not your average kiddie fare. Instead, it’s a beautiful tapestry of artwork that enchants the viewer with fine dining and will probably create a culinary desire in young ones.

Writer and director Brad Bird succeeds yet again in telling a story that is sophisticated enough for adults to enjoy, while entertaining the children in the audience at the same time. After his success with “The Incredibles,” this should come as no surprise.

In a sea of predictable and formulaic animated films, Bird’s work is original. He is able to tell a funny story while capturing your heart. And he does it without fart jokes.

In this film he has created a dreamer, a rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt, “The King of Queens,” “Failure to Launch”), who desires nothing more than to cook and create amazing dishes with unspoiled food and succulent spices, unlike the other rats around him who are content to steal and eat garbage.

A rat who wants to be a chef? In Paris? When no kitchen in the world would have him? Voila! Instant conflict.

It’s another brilliant sendup of the “staying true to yourself” theme, yet it still manages to maintain a fresh take on the subject.

There is a friend to gain, a love to find, a creed to believe and a happy (if unexpected) ending to achieve for all.

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However, be forewarned that there is some rather macabre subject matter in this film as well. It’s not all fluffy content. There is a scene with a shotgun at the very beginning that is sure to frighten some younger children, and another scene with a bunch of dead rats in traps. This film makes a serious attempt at examining a rat’s life and doesn’t overlook the unpleasant elements. It doesn’t pull its punches.

Adding to the great writing is the artwork that has gone into the making of this film. Once again, viewers can see the advancement in this technology as animated characters in one scene actually appear to be wet with fur that clings in the right places and skin that shines. Even the backdrops are beautiful. The stunning landscapes of Paris are breathtaking, and there is a scene at night in the fog that is just gorgeous. No detail is ignored.

This attention to detail can lead to imaginative fun when you enter the sewer world the rats live in underneath Paris. The rat band had to be one of the most creative highlights in the film.

And the voice casting for “Ratatouille” couldn’t be better. It was hard to identify some of the voices at first thanks to a couple of French accents, but in the end it was not difficult to recognize Brad Garrett (“Music and Lyrics,” “Everybody Loves Raymond”), Ian Holm (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Day After Tomorrow”) and Peter O’Toole (“Lawrence of Arabia,” “Venus”). And of course, there was the legendary voice bit for John Ratzenberger (“Cars,” “Cheers”) as well.

As an added bonus, there is also a very funny short, “Lifted,” as the opener to the film. Pixar went back to the no-dialogue formula for this one; thankfully, there are no annoying bouncing sheep this time around.

Touted as one of the best Pixar films to date, this movie still didn’t manage to beat the magic that was “Finding Nemo.” Yet it’s right up there with some of Pixar’s greatest work.

It has memorable characters, a well-written plot and beautiful artwork. Just don’t go to the movie on an empty stomach, as this film will make anyone leave hungry.