"Anyone can cook," promises Gusteau, Ratatouille's fat, kindly chef, repeating the motto that made him Paris' most revered culinary artiste. "Yeah, anyone can cook," counters the charming Remy, a rat with a sharp wit and a discerning palate. "That doesn't mean anyone should."
Let's pretend for a sec that Gusteau and Remy are talking about animated movies: To look at multiplexes crammed with CG kids' fare, anyone can make them. But that doesn't necessarily mean anyone should. Since 1995's Toy Story, Pixar Animation Studios has been making films that have changed the face of modern animation—Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars—winning critical accolades and gazillions of dollars while doing so. Pixar's best efforts (Nemo, Incredibles) blend beautiful images and comedic hijinks with a surprisingly adult level of angst and soul-searching, and even the studio's lesser films (Cars, Monsters) make most other animated films look like infantile sitcoms (Shrek, I'm looking in your general direction).
But competition (or lack thereof) aside, let's call Ratatouille what it is: Pixar's best film to date. Remy (voiced by the hilarious Patton Oswalt) is a rat from the French countryside who has somehow developed into a discerning gourmand, a rat who cringes when his sloppy brethren gnaw on unidentifiable garbage. Abruptly ending up in Paris, Remy finds himself at the back door of Gusteau's, a once-five star restaurant that, in the wake of its owner's death, has fallen on hard times: Gusteau's image is used to pimp frozen burritos and corn dogs, while vampiric food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) eagerly savages its offerings. But by teaming up with the restaurant's gangly, naïve garbage boy, Linguini (Lou Romano), Remy sees a chance to revive Gusteau's.
Ratatouille is flat-out gorgeous (full of sumptuous color and jaw-dropping detail), effortlessly funny (Pixar's graceful, fluid animation contains some of the best physical comedy of... well, ever), and the story, from writer/director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant), is utterly original, sharply clever, and earnestly moving. Even the miserly Anton Ego would have trouble finding fault here—Ratatouille is simply great filmmaking, animated or not.