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October 30, 2007

Cinema releases by Pixar are always trumpeted long before the event, and you’re never left in any doubt that This Is A New Pixar.

I guess, with all the effort and dedication (and money) they pour into their movies, and the length of time between each one, they can be forgiven for making a song and dance about things. Consequently, Ratatouille seems to have been coming to a theatre near me for months. And it has…that not-entirely-enticing poster with a parenthesised phonetic nudge telling me how to pronounce it, has been plastered up in Vues and Cineworlds forever. Now, it’s time to sample what we’re clearly expected to consider a treat.

And, heck it is. Almost.

Ratatouille starts as it means to go on. First, with a hefty splash of voice-over from our likable hero, Remy, a rat living in rural France, who dreams of following the world’s most famous chef, Gusteau, into the rarefied world of gastronomy. Remy has an advanced sense of smell, and turns his little pink nose up at the horrific garbage his family considers acceptable. This narrative voice attaches you to the resilient rodent immediately and, despite the absurdity of his ambitions, you’re rooting for him. Second, and for many moviegoers this will be more important, the whole story starts with a pan and scan down into a french farmhouse that simply looks, well, real. That is, it would, if it weren’t so ultra real. Nothing could be this gorgeous, this perfect. This can’t possibly be animation, can it?

And those are the twin appeals, I guess; a connection to this unlikely character, and the utter jaw-dropping gobsmackingly right-there-infront-of-you-ness of the visuals. It’s a winning combination.

The action – via a very scary and loud sewer ride, that had my 7 year old a tad worried – moves swiftly to Paris and creates an entire, fully realised, new world for Remy (and Pixar) to explore. There are some belly laugh moments here, and much fun to be had, as Remy tries to inveigle himself into the kitchen of Gusteau’s old restaurant; and danger, too, as the new dictator of the ovens, Skinner, attempts to find out just who (or what) is disrupting his empire.

But the ace card, cards, for there are many, are the set pieces that lead to the extraordinary visuals.

One chase scene, along the bank of the Seine, is almost too perfect, washed in a fabulous golden early morning light, the textures of walls and cobbles and water rushing past, the sheer dynamism of the protagonists, it’s almost too much to take in. You think that you can’t possibly get too much of this.

But, of course, just like the rich food of the very best eateries, you can.

Even at a shade under 100 minutes, this is probably one frenetic hold-on-tight scene too long, and by the time the rather too sugary desert came along I was ready to go and see what the actual Real World looked like.

NB. Whatever you do, make sure you get there on time for the start of the show. Not only should you endeavour to do this anyway (people who turn up late at the movies should be flayed, rolled in rock salt and then boiled), but there’s a fantastic short at the beginning, Lifted, which has all the invention and humour of the hour and a half that follows and then some, and it’s a must-see.

(for Lifted, )

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