Ratatouille (U)

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The Independent Culture

Coming in the wake of that report on inadequate hygiene in restaurant kitchens, the new Pixar animation (left) about a rat with a passion for haute cuisine is not exactly well-timed. The rodent hero, Remy (Patton Oswalt), believes that "anyone can cook", but opportunities for a rat-chef don't arise that often. Washed down a sewer, Remy ends up in the kitchen of Parisian restaurant Gusteau's, where he joins forces with a hopeless young fellow, Linguini (Lou Romano), and starts cooking food that has the patrons all of an ooh-la-la.

Writer-director Brad Bird, who made The Incredibles, hasn't created anything as funny as Edna Mode, though there are laughs to be had with a head chef who looks like John Galliano and a pompous restaurant critic named Anton Ego. Thomas Keller from the Napa restaurant The French Laundry was hired as culinary consultant, and the animators have worked some magic of their own creating a sequence in which a swarm of rats work the kitchen during a dinner rush.

How all this restaurant lore will play with the kids is doubtful – sniffy critics, sous chefs and bourgeois cooking isn't really the stuff to fire a child's imagination. The Pixar people have set themselves such absurdly high standards that we are always expecting another Toy Story. This isn't it. Clever, certainly; ingenious, occasionally; enjoyable – hardly ever.