Remy is a rat with a nose for food-especially the gourmet kind served in five-star Paris restaurants. Not for him is the garbage his rodent brethren scarf down: Instead, he dreams of becoming a top-notch chef at the center of the culinary universe.
So goes the basic plotline of Ratatouille (rated G), the latest animated feature from Pixar. The film's writer-director is Brad Bird, the creator of the Oscar-winning The Incredibles, which Ratatouille matches for originality and sheer delightfulness.
With his second Pixar work, Bird shows a knack for creating animation with gentle, intuitive stories that often feel like real-life films.
With his special nose, Remy (Patton Oswalt) has a dull job checking his clan's food for rat poison, but he soon learns the art of combining fresh ingredients through a cookbook by France's once-best chef, Gusteau. The deceased Gusteau appears to Remy in an apparition, guiding the rat to his now-declining Paris restaurant.
When the new garbage boy, Linguini (Lou Romano), accidentally ruins a soup, Remy makes it into a sensation, though all in the kitchen think Linguini is the genius. From then on, Remy hides under Linguini's hat, directing him to more epicurean triumphs. His finest meal is ratatouille: a French peasant dish made with tomatoes and zucchini that melts the icy food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole).
The gourmet kitchen has its real-world hierarchy of chef, sous-chef, and other cooks, and you can almost smell Remy's cooking as he carefully combines his herbs and flavors. Kids will love Linguini's hapless antics, and adults will appreciate the movie's homespun good sense that "not everyone can become a good artist, but a good artist can come from anywhere." Even with a rat as the hero, Ratatouille makes a tasteful summer flick.