OK…I have a confession to make. I used to hate rats…and went to extremes making sure I didn’t have rodents as my extended family. I found furry little creatures scurrying around the house quite disconcerting – and seeing them in the kitchen usually called for decimating all food that could have been touched by rats. I had even invested in mouse-traps – but I should have taken the hint from Tom & Jerry… these traps are meant for catching cat-tails.

I used to hate rats – until I saw the latest from the geniuses at Pixar-Disney. (it should be the other way round – but I think the geniuses are at Pixar, not Disney) Ratatouille – pronounced Raa-ta-too-ee – is cinema at its best – even without putting it into the category of Animated movies! Brad Bird – considered by many to be the Kubrik of animation and received an Oscar for “The Incredibles” last year – has bettered his previous directorial performance by creating a movie that is hilarious, intelligent, insightful, motivating, exciting, a gastronmic delight and a leisurely Parisian stroll on the banks of the Seine…all at one go. Pixar has repeatedly created experiences for lovers of cinema by juxtaposing fantasy and reality to create situations and plots which – though seemingly ridiculous – are brought to brilliant life through technical virtuosity, tight screenplays, Oscar winning vocal performances and great storytelling. Ratatouille is the latest feather in their cap. (That cap must be running out of space!) Their movies are not for children…but children can watch and enjoy them too!

Remy – the chief protagonist (and rat) of the story – is a different kind of rat. He doesn’t want to steal food for a living – he wants to cook. He knows that he has culinary talents far greater than most humans…forget rats. Ratatouille is the story of how an ordinary sewer Rat creates savory magic in the one place where he is not supposed to be: the kitchen of one of Paris’ leading restaurants – Gusteau (named after Remy’s “guru”). Together with his human friend – as a voluntary puppet (how he controls Linguini’s movements by hiding in the chef’s hat and pulling hairstrings is ingenius!) he lifts up the sagging fortunes of the restaurant – much to the chagrin of Skinner (voiced by the brilliant Ian “Bilbo Baggins” Holm) the current sous-chef (head chef). Linguini becomes an overnight celebrity – and as the reader can imagine ego problems ensue. I won’t give the plot away much…but suffice it to say – Ratatouille is a story of the meek inheriting the kitchen… and of the belief that “Everyone cannot be a great artist – but a great artist can be anyone!” In this case a Rat.

The animation is what we can now call “Pixar – standard”. Flawless to the untrained eye. The vocal performances are brilliant – especially Peter O’Toole as Anton Ego – the critic who brought Gusteau’s downfall – and the critic who eventually recognizes the brilliance of Remy the rat. Ratatouille stays with you long after the credits roll…and makes you want to dump junk food forever! 🙂 It leaves you feeling hopeful in the heart and light in the head…like good wine. And the movie should be enjoyed like one.

This is a Rs.700 for me. Though I doubt I will be able to afford it then…and that’s what makes me feel charmed and lucky…
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