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DVD Review: Ratatouille

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I decided to hold this review (and the Pixar Short Films DVD) for as long as I could because I wanted it to be fresh in everyone's minds as they prepared for the start of the Christmas shopping season this Friday. Whether you are looking for something for a girlfriend or a nephew or even a grandparent, Ratatouille belongs in your basket. It is another in the increasingly long string of delightful movies that Pixar has created, and I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it. As its box cover proudly declares, it is the "best reviewed film of the year!"

For those who missed it in theaters, Ratatouille is the story of a young rat named Remy who desires more than anything to be a master chef. Driven away from his country home, he ends up in Paris where he meets a young chef named Linguini. Linguini is, of course, a terrible cook but with Remy's help he begins to serve up some of the finest French cuisine this side of Pierre Gagnaire. Naturally, this attracts the attention of a fellow, beautiful chef as well as that of Linguini's scheming boss and from there the adventure and mayhem ensue.

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I won't go into any more detail than that, but I'm sure you can imagine what happens when you mix a luxury restaurant, an epicurious rat, a suspicious boss and a haughty, imperious food critic. What's so wonderful about Ratatouille, though, is that it hits much more than the obvious notes and creates, in Remy, a charming and enduring character who you wouldn't mind seeing in your own kitchen. Patton Oswalt is a revelation as Remy, while Ian Holm, Peter O'Toole and Janeane Garofalo all deliver inspired, comic voice performances.

As usual, Pixar delivers an excellent DVD full of significant extras. The transfer is widescreen only and features Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround sound. Lifted, the short film that screened prior to Ratatouille in theaters, is included as a bonus feature as are three, partially-completed scenes that didn't make the theatrical cut (for reasons of narrative logic). A second short film, Your Friend the Rat features Remy and his brother Emile taking us on a comedic history of rats. It plays a bit like those old school educational videos and is good for a laugh.

A final bonus feature--and I think the best one--is a short called Fine Food & Film in which director Brad Bird and uber-chef Thomas Keller muse about their respective creative processes. It's not really for the kids, but anyone with an interest in haute cuisine will enjoy it deeply. Keller, chef of the legendary French Laundry in Napa, is an utterly fascinating subject. It's only a shame that Bird did not do a commentary track for the film. It really is the only feature missing from a DVD that you should definitely pick up this week.

Photos courtesy of Disney