Animation auteur Brad Bird knows how to define an interesting character and he knows how to tell a great story. While it is not on the level of his masterpiece The Incredibles, his latest Pixar offering, Ratatouille, is a terrific piece of family entertainment. Set in Paris, it tells the story of a rat named Remy who dreams of using his gifts in the culinary arts. He befriends Linguini, a ne'er-do-well janitor, and together they work wonders, forming the Master Blaster of French cooks.
Physical comedy abounds in this movie, and there are some hair-raising chases and narrow escapes. The technology that powers computer-animated films these days is nothing short of remarkable. What I really liked about this film, however, is its simple, almost cliche message. Love of family, honesty, and above all belief in oneself are all woven into the impossibly zany tale so gently and effortlessly that one never feels like the film is preaching. If a rat can follow his dreams, then maybe we should too.
(footnote: my daughter and I have to argue about which is Bird's masterpiece, The Incredibles or The Iron Giant. She says most emphatically that it is the latter film.)