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If there's a recipe for a sure thing in Hollywood, it's an animated movie from Pixar. Ever since the debut of Toy Story in 1995, every Pixar movie has made more than $120 million dollars, and some considerably more than that.

So when Brad Bird (maker of The Incredibles) wanted to make a movie about a rat that cooks, everyone had to be scratching their heads wondering, "Why does he want to mess with success?" After all, who wants to see a movie about a rat that cooks food in a restaurant? Rats and cooking don't exactly go together. Wouldn't it be better to have a cute toy, or at least something, anything more appealing than a rat?

Well, as it turns out, not only is Ratatouille better than Pixar's last effort Cars, it's a far more appealing movie than Cars. Cars had no good characters or situations; in fact it was probably the first Pixar movie since A Bug's Life that didn't really capture the Pixar magic in terms of appealing characters filled with personality.

The lead character in Ratatouille, Remy, is a rat with much more sophisticated tastes than his rodent brethren. He doesn't eat garbage like his extended family (hundreds of other rats), and he can actually read and understands what makes food good. He longs for a better life, away from the squalor of the sewers and drainpipes that rats usually live in.

His hero is a famous chef, Gusteau, who wrote Remy's favorite cookbook but died after a bad review by an infamous food critic, Anton Ego. So when Remy's family is forced to flee their country home, Remy gets separated from them and ends up all the way out in Paris, where he finds Gusteau's old restaurant.  

The new owner of the place has just hired a young man named Linguini as a garbage boy. Linguini wants nothing more than to be a chef and maybe win the affections of the sous-chef Collette. When Remy fixes a soup that Linguini has ruined, they realize they may be able to help each other.

I won't spoil what happens afterwards. Only to say that it involves many of the usual Pixar elements that go into almost all of their movies:  an appealing lead character, a dastardly villain, a love interest for the hero/heroine, and a funny cast of supporting characters. Ratatouille has one of the best casts of characters, both rat and human, than in any of their movies, and the story gives all of them a chance to shine.

As usual, Pixar's animation is second to none. The rats in the movie move just like rats do in real life, and the details in their fur and eyes make it abundantly clear that the era of hand-drawn 2D animation is over. The shots of Paris are glowing with an inner light that comes alive on the screen. The amount of detail, especially in the kitchen scenes, just goes to show that the animators at Pixar are true masters of their craft. Just the look of the food on the plates (at least the ones that haven't been swarmed over by rats!) is enough to make you hungry.

The sounds of the movie are done extremely well too: the clanging of the pans and the sounds of the kitchen are perfect. And the voice acting is first-rate as well. While there are some big names like Peter O'Toole and Ian Holm in the movie, the lead parts of Remy and Linguini are played by relative unknowns (Patton Oswalt and Lou Romano), and they do a fabulous job.

Ratatouille is a far, far better movie than Cars, and is truly fun for the whole family. As usual in a Pixar movie, there are jokes for adults and kids, and there are some visuals that will leave you rolling on the floor in laughter. If you can get past the fact that a rat is cooking the food (and if there's one thing I would complain about, it's the fact that one of the villains in the movie doesn't bat an eye when he finds out a rat cooked him the meal of a lifetime), you will love Ratatouille. It's funny, it's beautifully animated, and it's fun for everyone.  4starExcellent20Ratatouille is available at Amazon through this link: