Hollywood Product - Ratatouille

Break from Pixar formula proves ingenious

Genre: Another computer-animated classic from Pixar

The pitch: Remy (voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt), a rat with aspirations to be a chef, forms an unlikely partnership with Linguini (Lou Romano), a klutzy kitchen worker at Gusteau's, a gourmet Parisian restaurant.

Money shots: Remy sees fireworks upon realizing the value of combining two flavors at once. Hidden in Linguini's hat, Remy manipulates the dozing young man's movements in front of female chef Collette (Janeane Garofalo) in a gag reminiscent of Steve Martin's All of Me. Remy leads the evil sous chef (Ian Holm) on a thrilling chase across Paris. At the big finish, Remy concocts a hilariously disgusting idea to run a kitchen abandoned by humans.

Best line: "You know how to cook, and I know how to appear human!" realizes Linguini as they concoct a way for Remy, whom he calls "Little Chef," to nonverbally communicate while cooking.

Fashion statements: High, spotless chef's hats provide a major plot point. Linguini's red high-tops (not to mention his American accent) set him apart from the French kitchen workers. Collette explains how clothes reflect a chef's skill: "Messy apron, clean sleeves." I swear Linguini wears Mr. Incredible boxer shorts, but you only see them for a split-second.

Cameos: Director Brad Bird (who also directed The Incredibles and voiced that film's Edna Mode) speaks for the minion of sinister food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole). The French Laundry chef Thomas Keller, one of the film's cooking consultants, voices a restaurant patron. Celebrity physical trainer Jake Steinfeld stands in for a muscle-bound lab rat. Thanks to the accents, you won't recognize the vocal tones of Will Arnett or Pixar perennial John Ratzenberger.

Body count: Jovial chef Gusteau dies early on but advises Remy as a figment of his imagination. Remy's father (Brian Dennehy) shows his son an exterminator's window filled with dead rats to prove that he shouldn't trust humans.

Inside joke: A street mime looks like Bomb Voyage, a minor villain from The Incredibles.

Extras: Oscar-nominated CGI cartoon "Lifted" depicts the lighter side of alien abduction. There's no little gag after the closing credits, but I liked the kitschy "stamp" near the kind that said, "100 Percent Pure Animation — No Motion Capture!"

So is there anything bad about it? Well, the name "Linguini" seems a little more corny than necessary. Otherwise, no.

The bottom line: Despite having a cast that's nearly half rodent, Ratatouille breaks from the Pixar formula of cute, funny action-comedies about talking toys/bugs/cars/etc., for an ingenious, bittersweet culinary farce. The brilliant gags might tickle your sweet tooth, but the film also serves rich, hearty subtext about life's sensual pleasures and the necessity of personal evolution. Plus, the animation literally looks good enough to eat, especially during the preparation of the title dish. 5 stars