Sorry I'm late sending this out; hopefully, not too late for you to take your 
youngest friend to see Ratatouille. This review was posted on National Review 
Online starting Friday. I'm in a hotel lobby in Portland, OR, and was not 
able to get the internet connection to work till today. Anyway, it's an expert 
beautiful animated film. 
My companion at the screening of Pixar’s new animation feature, “Ratatouille,
” pronounced this “the best movie I’ve ever seen.” Granted, she’s only six 
years old, and might not have seen as many movies as you have. But she’s seen 
virtually every great animated movie since the genre began, from Disney’s 1937 
“Snow White” till today. I think the little lady knows what she’s talking 
“Ratatouille” is a charming, engaging, and above all *original* fantasy 
tale. It’s a story you haven’t heard before, which can’t be said of 90% of 
animated features in recent years (that 10% occupied almost exclusively by 
from Pixar studios). On top of that, the animation is not just vibrantly 
realistic, but truly beautiful. Standards for animation art have just been 
raised a 
few notches. Many times I looked, for example, at scenes of Paris on a rainy 
autumn day, and thought that even a brilliant live-action director would be 
hard-pressed to create such shots. Many times, too, I thought “This *has* to be 
motion-capture, nobody could draw so perfectly.” (A “cheaters” way to make 
animation is by filming a scene live and then drawing over it, a technique 
in 1914 and used by Disney, among others. Last year’s “A Scanner Darkly” is 
a recent example of this technique, also known as rotoscoping.) But at the end 
of the credits there was a certificate proudly proclaiming “100% Animation”: 
no motion-capture or rotoscoping involved. So “Ratatouille” is a very 
impressive film, as well as lots of fun.  
If you’ve only seen commercials for “Ratatouille,” you already know the 
biggest negative going for it, which is that the leading character is a rat. I 
t like rats, particularly. I don’t like looking at rats. They look ratty. 
Given an hour and a half in a movie theater, I’d rather look at Cary Grant (or, 
failing that, George Clooney). Nor do I like looking at garbage, which is what 
rats eat, but the filmmakers were so concerned with verisimilitude that they 
left 15 varieties of fruit and vegetables out to rot and used the results as a 
guide. These elements are used wisely, however: the rats have nice pink ears 
and noses, which goes well with their taupe or lavender- gray fur, and the 
cinema-verite garbage doesn’t linger on screen. There is no gratuitous 
and, amazingly enough, no potty humor. Studios who think that it is necessary 
in children’s films might want to study the box office of “Ratatouille” in 
coming weeks. (In comparison, “Evan Almighty” dwelt on fecal matter so much 
I decided not to review it at all. Good intentions only go so far when you’re 
compelling audiences to watch a dog squatting over turds. The director of 
that film, Tom Shadylac, told reporters that this material was a sign that “at 
best [I] can return to childlikeness”. Call me the Princess-and-the-pea, but 
it isn’t. It’s just gross.)  
“Ratatouille” begins by introducing the lead rat and narrator, Remy (voiced 
by Patton Oswalt), who has a more highly-developed sense of smell, and a 
stronger appreciation for flavor, than his tubby, good-natured brother and his 
slovenly dad. His alert nose saves the clan from eating poisoned food, and Remy 
rewarded by being given the tedious duty of sniffing every morsel they eat. 
(Remy, by the way, has appealing green-blue fur, indicating a resemblance to 
Sullivan in “Monsters, Inc.” but not to actual rats, as far as I know.) Remy 
would love to be a master of cuisine like his hero, Chef Gusteau, the genius 
behind the 5-star restaurant Gusteau’s, whose slogan was “Anyone can cook!” But 
a cruel review by restaurant critic Anton Ego (deliciously voiced by Peter O’
Toole) struck a star from Gusteau’s crown, and that broke his heart; the death 
of the famous chef then cost the restaurant another star. The new owner, a 
shrewd little half-pint named Skinner (Ian Holm), is trying to shore up 
by manufacturing microwaveable meals under the great chef’s name, something 
which would break his heart all over again.  
Into the restaurant comes a gangly, self-conscious red-haired youth named 
Linguini, bearing a note from his mother, Renata, who it seems was an old 
of Gusteau and Skinner. (“How is she?” Skinner asks offhandedly. “Oh, fine,” 
says Linguini, then proceeds to stammer his way into tangles: “I mean, she 
died two weeks ago. But she believed in heaven. So, you know, it’s all right.”) 
Skinner gives Linguini a job as garbage boy.  
Meanwhile, while escaping from the kitchen of an old woman with a rifle and 
an aversion to rats, Remy is separated from his family. He is swept down a 
river and winds up in the sewers of Paris—immediately under Gusteau’s, as a 
matter of fact. He creeps inside and is rapt with the fragrances and 
but then sees Linguini, who is attempting to improve a soup, render it 
Just before the soup is ladled into its dish, Remy corrects the mix. It’s 
delicious, and Linguini is hailed as a promising young chef.  
That’s the setup, but there’s more to come, new characters and situations 
and surprises that will keep the adults as interested as the children. The 
that the Pixar folks put forth in “The Incredibles,” that gifted people 
should not be held back in the name of false equality, gets further developed 
here: “Not everyone can be an artist, but an artist can come from anywhere.” 
seems a more realistic, and ultimately more useful, lesson than the 
empty-headed “Just keep holding onto your dreams!” that fills most kidvid. 
” is one more proof that, though not everyone can make an excellent animated 
feature, the best being made now are definitely coming from Pixar. 

Frederica Mathewes-Green

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