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The Best of 2007: 'Ratatouille'

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Somebody did it! Somebody made a film where it is ok for a rat to live in your kitchen! Director Brad Bird follows his stupendous and superlative 2004 hit The Incredibles with a John Lasseter-inspired tale of cuteness in the most unlikely places. For those who already found rats cute, this film is no stretch of the imagination. This is actually one of three films set in Paris, France (Angel-A and Paris je T'aime-- my 12 pick for this year) that have made it to my list. This author doesn't have any strong connection or obsession with France. It just coincidentally has been a frequent location for some of the best films of this year in my opinion. And like my other two other picks, Ratatouille is another example of romantic wish fulfillment in La Belle France. For the most part, the film is about a rat's great dream to become a great cook in one of the most prestigious restaurants in the world. He is obsessed with great food as many of us are obsessed with good things in life... hopefully. And Remy, the name of our heroic rat, has taken it upon himself to help in the preparation of many of the foods. Problem is... who is supposed to take the credit?

The worlds of Remy and the restaurant's new garbage boy interestingly enough named Linguini eventually collide creating probably one of the most illogical pairings of characters ever seen on film. Linguini actually has no talent in cooking whatsoever and only a passion to learn and a good name to fall back on. It is Remy who then must use Linguini literally as a puppet to get to do what he has always wanted to do while Linguini uses Remy merely as an emotional crutch in order to get ahead in the culinary business and to pursue the ever bitchy but lovingly resourceful Colette, the only woman cook in the entire restaurant and she is not going to let anyone push her over because of that. Eventually, the film asks us the primary question concerning who and what people mean to each other despite, according to this movie, a difference in species.

The film sports some amazing CG animation apparently giving Remy the Rat a record of 1.15 million hairs on his body (hair is the most difficult of elements to look realistic in animation next to lighting) as well as some extremely complex scene staging where multiple actions occur in single shots (take note that since there is no real camera to move here that the computer is creating all the movement in this three dimensional environment) like Orson Welles' films only here in animation. The filmmakers also make the very admirable decision of casting unknowns as the lead characters, but gives a couple of the supporting characters to legendary English actors like Peter O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia and The Lion in Winter) as the "killer" critic Anton Ego and Ian Holm (Alien, The Lord of the Rings) as Head Chef Skinner. Other fairly well known actors take important characters like Janeane Garofalo showing off an excellent French accent and Pixar favorite John Ratzenberger playing an often befuddled waiter. A super cute film as all of Pixar's works are.