EntertainmentMoviesPixar Animation StudiosAnimation (genre)Peter O'TooleJaneane GarofaloBrad Bird

"Ratatouille" is an instant classic. The latest from the animation wizards at Pixar is one of the celebrated studio's best creations yet, overflowing with imagination, wit and dazzling visuals.

The unlikely dreamer at the center of the film's story is Remy (Patton Oswalt), a Parisian rat with a natural talent for gourmet cooking. His keen sense of smell makes him valuable at sniffing out rat poison but Remy, inspired by deceased five-star chef Auguste Gusteau's teaching that "anyone can cook," wants more out of life.

Circumstances lead him directly to Gusteau's former restaurant, where he becomes a friend and partner to gangly garbage boy Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano). With Remy's help, Alfredo defies the doubts of Gusteau's current owner, the greedy and jealous Skinner (Ian Holm), to become a star chef. And, in the process, wins the romantic attention of his lovely colleague Colette (Janeane Garofalo).

Writer-director Brad Bird previously proved himself as a top-notch storyteller with critical favorite "The Iron Giant" and massive success "The Incredibles," but he's in peak form with every element of "Ratatouille." His sophisticated screenplay feels simultaneously classical and original, rooted in long-standing animated traditions but filled with subtle touches and unpredictable twists.

And visually, "Ratatouille" is simply jaw-dropping. From elegantly constructed physical comedy to pulse-quickening action scenes that unfold at a rat's eye view of the world, there's more life and energy on display here than in any live action film in recent memory.

The film also demonstrates a refreshing disregard for animation clichés, including celebrity voiceovers (Peter O'Toole, as snooty food critic Anton Ego, and Brad Garrett, as Gusteau's ghost, are as close as the voice cast gets to superstars) and a comic relief sidekick (in this movie the plentiful laughs flow organically from every distinctly conceived character).

Animation long ago lost its reputation as simply "kids' stuff," but any hold-outs should be instantly converted by "Ratatouille's" effortless all ages appeal.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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EntertainmentMoviesPixar Animation StudiosAnimation (genre)Peter O'TooleJaneane GarofaloBrad Bird