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Common Sense Media: On. For ages 5 and older.
.... (out of five stars)
Running time: 110 minutes
Common Sense review: 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. However, "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 child-friendly flick, but Mr. Bird makes it irresistible. Remy (voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt) is a unique rat who can't stomach eating garbage. He wants the good stuff, 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 getting 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. 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.
The story doesn't have the emotional depth of "The Incredibles" or "Finding Nemo," but the animation is every bit as dazzling.
Common Sense note: Parents need to know that Disney has spared no expense to market its latest Pixar film to children. Even preschoolers who can't pronounce the title will know about the movie with the cooking rat. Like all of Pixar's other films, this movie includes nuanced humor and references aimed directly at adults. There's some light peril involving the rats and weapon-wielding humans, but it's harmless and comical.
Families can talk about what made children want to see this movie — the story or all of the advertising? Does it matter that the title is hard to spell/pronounce or that the main characters are rats? Do children know the Pixar brand name? Does that make them more likely to want to see something? Families can also discuss the film's theme — pretending to be something you're not. How does pretending catch up to each of them?
Sexual content: Linguini and another chef flirt, embrace and kiss.
Language alert: A few mild insults.
Violence alert: Remy is hunted by an angry, gun-toting grandma and knife-throwing chefs. One chef is rumored to be an ex-con and looks menacingly at the rest of the kitchen staff.
Social-behavior alert: Linguini learns to give credit to his rat pal. Remy realizes his family connections are more important than his human ones.
Drug/alcohol/tobacco alert: It's France, and no French meal is served without a good bottle of wine.