Andy Bockelman: 'Ratatouille' is a palatable piece of animation

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From the studio that made you love bugs, monsters and fish comes the next logical choice: rats.

In "Ratatouille," Pixar presents one of their best movies yet.

Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt) is a rat with a highly developed sense of taste and smell. Unfortunately, the only thing this is good for in a rat colony is checking food for poison.

Remy has higher aspirations; he wants to be a chef like his hero, world-famous gourmet Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), whose motto "Anyone can cook" inspires Remy to believe in himself even though his father Django (Brian Dennehy) does not want him associating with humans.

After Remy gets separated from the colony, he winds up in Paris and immediately discovers the late Gusteau's legendary eatery.

He cannot help but add to a soup that is simmering, which is accredited to newly-hired garbage boy Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano), who is forced into a promotion despite his lack of any culinary skills.

When Linguini finds that he can communicate with Remy, the two of them become the hottest new cuisinier in the city.

The voice cast is as flavorful as the food cooked up by Remy.

Oswalt, best known as the third banana on "The King of Queens," gets his chance to shine as the fuzzy hero.

Garrett is sublime as man-mountain Gusteau, whose spirit helps guide Remy á la Jiminy Cricket.

Romano, a frequent Pixar collaborator, provides a fine voice for the clumsy, but well-meaning Linguini.

Having portrayed Napoleon numerous times, Ian Holm is exemplary as Monsieur Skinner, Gusteau's pint-size successor, who is only interested in overtaking the bistro for financial gain, and is highly suspicious of Linguini's sudden talent.

Janeane Garofalo provides a surprisingly effective French accent for Colette, a passionate member of the kitchen staff with whom Linguini falls in love.

Providing perhaps the most memorable voice is Peter O'Toole as Anton Ego, a merciless food critic who considers himself the be-all-end-all of haute cuisine.

The rest of the cast includes Will Arnett, James Remar and, of course, John Ratzenberger, who has been in every Pixar feature.

Besides displaying dishes sumptuous enough to make an audience drool in unison, the Paris landscape, Eiffel Tower and all, is spectacular.

The characters definitely have a unique look as well.

Most of the humans have noses so large that if it were a live-action movie the roles could only be filled by the likes of Adrien Brody, Barbra Streisand, Gerard Depardieu - well, you get the picture.

Brad Bird, who also directed the fast-paced "The Incredibles," captures the perfect feel of the City of Lights and as writer, cooks up a screenplay as fine as a five-course meal.

The one slight imperfection is that sometimes the characters talk so fast, they are indecipherable, but that only makes viewers want to pay closer attention.

All of this is served up along with an appetizer; the Oscar-nominated short "Lifted," about a young, rookie alien whose first UFO abduction goes terribly awry.

Although it is unlikely to create a frenzy for child-sized portions of its namesake (made of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and other vegetables), "Ratatouille" is a palatable piece of animation which should satisfy even the most discriminating critic.

"Ratatouille" is currently playing at West Theatre in Craig.

Review tickets courtesy of West Theatre.

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