Rodent flick lacks spice

Ratatouille Featuring the voices of: Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Janeane Garofalo, Ian Holm, Peter O'Toole; Dir: Brad Bird; Cert: U; 1hr 41mRatatouille is one of the biggest grossing films of the year before it has even opened in the UK.

By Andrew Clarke

Ratatouille Featuring the voices of: Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Janeane Garofalo, Ian Holm, Peter O'Toole; Dir: Brad Bird; Cert: U; 1hr 41m

Ratatouille is one of the biggest grossing films of the year before it has even opened in the UK. Round the globe, audiences have been flocking to this animated tale of a food-loving French rat who dreams of being a gourmet chef. The film is the latest release from computer animation giants Pixar creators of such modern screen classics as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

As you would expect, the animation is first rate. The scenes are now almost photo-real and those previously difficult sequences involving water, fire and rain now appear to be no problem whatsoever.


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Ratatouille starts at a gallop. The animation is fast, colourful and above all, highly imaginative. The level of invention is superb. This is Pixar back at its best - particularly after the comparative disappointment of Cars. This latest movies tells the story of Remy, a French rat, who is a lover of fine food. Unlike his family and friends who scavenge for scarps among dustbins and dung heaps, Remy, voiced by US stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt, likes to eat good food and he discovers that he has a natural talent for combining flavours.

A series of disasters means that he is separated from his colony and ends up living close to the restaurant of renowned, but recently deceased chef, Auguste Gusteau. The over-emotional Gusteau has died of grief after mean-spirited restaurant critic Anton Ego (O'Toole) issued a damning review of the great chef's eatery after he took exception to Gusteau's best-selling book Anyone Can Cook.

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The restaurant is now in the hands of Skinner (Ian Holm) a diminutive tyrant who it turns out is about to become the owner of the restaurant providing no heir appears within the next few weeks.

As chance would have it Gusteau's "nephew" Linguini (Lou Romano) arrives at the restaurant and is given the job as a garbage boy. Remy is horrified when he sees Linguini making some unauthorised additions to the soup and sets out to rescue the situation with some additions of his own.

After a mad panic in the kitchen Linguini and Remy form an uneasy friendship, with the rat living under the young lad's hat. By pulling on his hair Remy acts like a puppet master controlling the young cook's actions. Thus Linguini is deemed to be a boy genius.

Unfortunately, it is this point that Ratatouille goes off the boil. It ceases being a fast-paced story about a rodent with a highly-developed nose for good food and instead becomes a slow, talky romantic comedy as Linguini falls head over heels in love with his mentor Colette (Garofalo) - the only female chef in the kitchen.

Remy almost becomes a supporting character in his own film and sad to say there is more romance than laughs in this second half of the movie. Experienced director Brad Bird just about keeps things ticking over - thanks to the timely arrival of the cadaver-like Anton Ego who would like nothing better than to deliver the death blow to Gusteau's failing restaurant.

With Skinner now out of the picture it is up to the hapless to serve up a dish which will impress the great writer. The only problem is that Remy the rat is not there to help him sift through the ingredients.

Pixar are brilliant technicians and they have got half a great movie here. It's really an extended short - which is a pity because it start off in excellent form and for the first hour it has the possibility of being Pixar's greatest achievement but sadly unlike Toy Story or The Incredibles the second half does not provide the same level of wit, invention or fast-paced action that we have come to expect.

Ratatouille is still a good movie but with a little extra spice in the latter half it could have been an all-time classic.

***

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