As long as you don't have a phobia about rats, this is delightfully entertaining film that can be recommended for young and old.

This film will probably be welcomed by any Association for the Rehabilitation and Protection of Rats. The danger is, perhaps, that some viewers may get the idea that they should have a rat for a pet!

Pixar Studios have a long record of making animated films that please both adults and children. They have won Oscars for Finding Nemo and The Incredibles and their other films, all of which are worth seeing, are the two Toy Story films, A Bug's Life, Monsters Inc and Cars (this one may be their least successful).

The film, as the title suggests, is also about food ­ in France, Paris to be precise.

We are introduced to one of the most genial of rats, Remy, who has a gourmet gift of smell and taste for good food ­ and is, therefore, something of a misfit in the colony where his father and brother, Emile, are not discriminating in the garbage they collect and eat. These opening sequences make the rats quite congenial, though not for the old lady who watches cooking programs which also delight Remy as does her kitchen. When she wakes to find her house infested by the colony, she grabs a shotgun and chases the rats down the sewers.

Luckily Remy washes up in Paris just near the restaurant of his favourite chef, whose TV programs and book proclaim: 'Anyone Can Cook'.

Unfortunately, the restaurant has hit hard times after bad reviews and the death of chef, Gaston. The reviews come from the miserable food critic, Anton Ego, 'the Grim Eater'. It must be mentioned that he is voiced by Peter O'Toole at his best and, thankfully, he appears again towards the end of the film. O'Toole gives the voice his oratorical best and is highly entertaining.

The plot is not entirely predictable, especially when Remy sees the young garbage-putter-outer, Linguini, interfering with the soup and remedies the crises to the ecstatic responses of the customers. A deal is worked out where Linguini does the work and gets the credit while Remy hides in Linguini's chef's hat, directing him and his actions by pulling the left and right tufts of his hair! His success drives the chief chef, a scheming villain Skinner (voiced by Ian Holm), paranoid and beserk. In the meantime, the only woman cook allowed in the kitchen is Colette. Linguini, of course, falls for her.

Actually, there is plenty more plot, so the story keeps up the interest. While Linguini is a variation on the Napoleon Dynamite type and not too bright, Remy is full of ideas and skills. However, his crisis is whether he will help the humans according to his talent or acknowledge his rodent roots and return to the colony as his father wants.

There are several peril sequences which work extremely well: the rats hunted by the old lady, Remy gushing through the sewers, Remy pursued all over Paris by Skinner.

Just when you think it is all over for everyone and Linguini and Remy are unmasked, enter Anton Ego to pass judgment on the new young chef. The sequence where they prepare a wonderful meal is unexpected and a joy to watch.

Writer-director Brad Bird has a fine sense of humour to go with his exuberant talent for making cartoons come alive.
LONDON - 13 November 2007 - 370 words

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