I feel sorry for the children who go see the new animated film Ratatouille, for they will not have the pleasure of doing as I did immediately after watching this film--uncorking a bottle of red wine and drinking it with a good meal. As the Cute-Little-Red-Headed-Girlfriend said to me right after the movie, "Who knew an animated film about a rat could make you want to drink so much wine?" But that is the exact effect the movie has, so my advice to you is: see it first, then go eat.
Ratatouille uses the familiar fish-out-of-water formula for its plot, but the example is so extreme--a rat who wants to be a chef--that it avoids seeming overly cute. The rat lead character is mostly Disney adorable, but not completely so. At times, the realism behind the action animation overshadowed the rat's characterization, and all I could see was the image of a lifelike rat scrambling inside a working kitchen. Those moments made my stomach lurch, but they also made the rat's story more poignant, because I had to overcome some of my own repulsion in order to root for him.
Paris serves as the main setting for Ratatouille. Having seen Sicko last week, with its enthusiastic depiction of French life, I wondered if there wasn't some sort of mini-backlash at work here--a swipe at the anti-French sentiment of the Bush administration. My favorite moment in the film was a cartoony nod to Proust's madeleine involving the movie's antagonist, the food critic Anton Ego, shown here. I don't know if a swipe at Republicans was intended, but the many swipes at critics were too heavy-handed to miss.
I enjoyed the film enough that I sat through the credits all the way to the very end, where I saw a peculiar message about the type of animation ("No motion capture") used to make the film. I looked for information on the web and found an interesting write-up and discussion about it on the the Onion's A.V. Club Blog. If you're interested in animation technique, it's well worth reading.