What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, like all of Pixar's other films, Ratatouille includes nuanced humor (about the French, haute cuisine, food critics, and so on) and references aimed directly at adults. Kids will miss most of these references but most likely will still enjoy the plot and animal characters. Not surprisingly for an animated kids' movie, the protagonist, Linguini, is an orphan -- although at least he's a young adult and not a child. There's some moderate peril involving the rats and weapon-wielding humans that may frighten sensitive and younger viewers; the sewer sequence is particularly tense and potentially scary, as is the gun-toting grandma. There are a few mild insults, such as "stupid" and "loser," and one "hell."
What's the story?
RATATOUILLE follows the culinary adventures of Remy (voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt), a unique rat who can't stomach eating garbage. He wants the good stuff -- truffle oil and fine artisan cheeses -- which brands him the snobby black sheep of his crew. After Remy's family is driven from their habitat by a gun-toting grandma, he emerges onto the streets of Paris, where he's visited by the ghost of renowned, recently deceased uber-chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett), who was famous for the populist saying "Anyone can cook." Remy is drawn to Gusteau's now three-star restaurant (it lost a star after Gusteau died), where he feels right at home ... before being sighted and nearly killed by flying knives. Remy, quick with the spices, saves young kitchen helper Linguini (Lou Romano) from ruining the soup of the day, and the two form an odd-couple bond. From then on, Remy becomes part Mister Miyagi, part puppeteer as he helps Linguini cook up delicious specials that put Gusteau's back on the culinary map. But as Linguini soaks in his new fame as the chef du jour, Remy grows increasingly bitter that someone else is taking credit for his recipes. The film's nemeses are Gusteau's new head chef -- an angry little dictator (Ian Holm) who wants to make millions selling a line of prepackaged frozen foods -- and Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole), a food critic who loves writing negative reviews.
Is it any good?
At this point, it's pretty much a given that families and young children will line up to see anything made by Pixar, which seems incapable of producing a dud. But Ratatouille, like director Brad Bird's family adventure The Incredibles, is the rare animated film that could just as easily captivate an audience full of childless adults. Granted, the world of haute French cuisine is an unlikely setting for a kid-friendly flick, but Bird makes it irresistible.
The story doesn't have the emotional depth of The Incredibles or Finding Nemo, but the animation is every bit as dazzling. Every scene of the chefs shredding, peeling, dicing, and stirring is vibrant and layered. And the moment Ego tastes the titular dish is so delicious a visual reference that it deserves to be a surprise. Kids may ultimately favor the child-centric appeal of Toy Story or the vroom-vroom adventure of Cars, but grown-ups will find a reason to ask for seconds of Ratatouille.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about what made kids want to see this movie. Does it matter that the title is hard to spell/pronounce or that the main characters are rats?
Do kids know the Pixar brand name? Does that make them more likely to want to see a movie?
Families also can discuss the film's theme: pretending to be something you're not. Linguini takes credit for Remy's cooking ideas to look like a chef, and Remy turns away from his rat family to be with his human friends and eat good food. How does pretending catch up to each of them?