I so wanted to like this movie. I have had a long standing loving relationship with Disney (to this day The Little Mermaid reigns supreme as one of my top ten favorite movies). They have always impressed me with the characters, humor and pictures. No matter how doubtful I was, Disney (and now Pixar) have never disappointed me. Closeted superheroes? Fabulous! Talking cars? Hysterical! But I will admit that my skepticism ran a little deeper when I heard their latest animated feature was about a rat who loves to cook, but since it was Pixar I gave it a chance. I'll be honest, I just couldn't stomach the sight of all those rats scurrying around the streets and restaurants of Paris. This time it was to Pixar's detriment that they create such lifelike and realistic characters. The rats reminded me of my nightly experience in the subway on my way home and the local news when they are reporting that another restaurant doesn't meet health standards.
The movie tells the story of Remy (voiced by Patton Oswald), a French rat who has a special sense of sniff. He is able to tell exactly what it is any edible item just by smelling it. When this talent is first discovered, his father employs him to smell all items the pack eats to ensure that no one consumes a poisoned morsel. But this role bores him and he wants to do more with food. He ventures into the kitchen of the woman's whose house he and his friends have infested and comes across a cookbook by famed French Chef, Gusteau (Brad Garrett). While searching for flavors that would help create delicacies he wakes the old woman who discovers the rodent and a shooting spree eventually leads to the escape of Remy's extended family. In the course of the great escape, Remy is separated from his family and finds himself outside the famed Gusteau restaurant.
Haunted by the ghost of Gusteau, he watches the hustle and bustle of the busy restaurant kitchen and is entranced by all the creating below. One young cook, Linguini, catches his eye as he throws whatever is in arm's length into the pot. After falling into the kitchen below he tries to salvage the soup. During this soup-resuscitation, Remy is caught by the young restaurateur and when they realize that they can help themselves, a new friendship is forged and a new cooking team is created. Working together they bring Gusteau's flailing restaurant back to it's five-star status. Their ultimate goal is to impress relentless food critic, Anton Ego (voiced by the irreverent Peter O'Toole). O'Toole's performances are always mesmerizing, and even in animated form his turn as the animated maniacal food expert is no exception.
Ultimately this Disney-Pixar collaboration stays true to form, having the final message being about friendship, family and being true to one's self. However, despite the cute comments and impressive animation I couldn't sympathize with Remy, no matter how cutesy they drew him. If anything, Linguini was the character who garnered the most sympathy from this reviewer. I wanted to see him succeed and wished he could do it without the help from his verminous pet.