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Ratatouille

Disney Enterprises, Inc & Pixar Animation Studios

Review in a Hurry:  Will Pixar ever make a bad movie? Ever? The streak continues as The Incredibles director, Brad Bird, offers this lush tale of a rat who dreams of being top chef.

The Bigger Picture:  Every mainstream animated movie requires its hero to "find" himself, to follow his heart, to do the right thing. Like the ticking of a clock, these elements cannot change. The challenge is to put a fresh spin on these life lessons without ruining a sense of simplicity and sweetness. And, also like clockwork, Pixar does it every single time. It's a little scary, frankly—and totally thrilling.

The rat of Ratatouille is Remy, a foodie who just happens to be a rodent living in that capital of fine dining, Paris. Remy's inspiration is a late great chef named Gusteau whose motto, "Anyone can cook," is the driving force of the movie.

Through a variety of screwball screwups, Remy happens upon Gusteau's very restaurant, secretly helping a gangly garbage boy named Linguini become the star of the kitchen. Not everyone is a fan of Chef Linguini, however. An evil chef with a Napoleon complex and a scathing food critic aptly named Anton Ego are out to undermine the best interests of Gusteau's. A rat in the kitchen would be the perfect reason to shut down the restaurant once and for all. Gulp!

Every Pixar film epitomizes the ideal of appealing to kids and adults alike, and Ratatouille is no different. Who doesn't love food? Even if they can't verbalize it, kids know just as adults do that food can summon precious memories, pure delight and a vivid sense of time and place. The sumptuous animation capitalizes on the vibrant colors of a cook's kitchen; the computer-generated vegetables, meats and sauces truly look good enough to eat. It's a five-star meal for all the senses.

The 180—a Second Opinion:  Minor quibble: The pacing goes from a rolling boil to a bare simmer midway through the third act. It's a good time for a bathroom break, but hurry back for dessert.