There's a scene towards the end of Brad Bird's Ratatouille where sneering food critic Anton Ego (voiced with blue-blooded superciliousness by the incomparable Peter O'Toole) arrives at the up and coming restaurant Gusteau's, intending to crush its fledgling reputation under an avalanche of scorn. Served a humble peasant dish (the ratatouille from which the movie gets its title) by the restaurant's unlikely chef (a rat - yes, really, a RAT - called Remy), Ego finds his eyes filling with tears, however, as the subtle flavors of the dish bring back memories of his childhood in the French countryside and his mother's cooking.
And there, in a nutshell, you have the experience of watching Ratatouille. Silly to the point of being ludicrous, predictable to the verge of cliche, Rataouille still manages to be, magically, a deeply endearing film. Part of it is the superb animation - the rattiness of the rats, the foodiness of the food, the Paris-ness of Paris - everything, in short, that we've come to love and expect from the wizards at Pixar. Part of it is the clever, clever trick of making a movie that ends with the vicious critic eating, if not quite humble pie, then at least modest ragout, thus effectively hamstringing anyone who thinks of writing a scathing review of the film. Mostly though it's the joie de vivre of the script - the sheer exhilaration of making a deliciously simple yet entirely outrageous film based on a premise that is, in turn both simple and outrageous at the same time. This is meta-cinema at its best - the idea that people would actually enjoy food made by a rat is just about as ridiculous as the idea that people would enjoy a film about people enjoying food made by a rat, which is why you're inclined to believe it.
At its heart, Rataouille is a retelling of that oldest of creative myths - inspired young artist with no formal training and an entirely impossible background comes to big city and wows the connoisseurs, thus transcending both the establishment and his own roots. The fact that the impossible background here happens to be membership in the genus Rattus and that the art form involved is culinary is a matter of mere detail. Okay, so there's a brief period right after you walk out of the theater when you feel an overwhelming urge to reach for a skillet , but the exuberance that sizzles and flambes through this film has little to do with food per se. Remy's problem is not that he can't cook - that comes to him as naturally as nibbling cheese - it's that as a common pest he's rodentia non grata in every kitchen on either side of the Seine. Egged on by the imagined spirit of his culinary guru Chef Gusteau (a disappointingly un-Anatole like figure whose specialty seems to be potage de poulet pour l'ame and whose motto 'Anyone Can Cook' becomes the film's battle cry) Remy adopts a hapless garbage boy named Linguini - a limp noodle if there ever was one - and proceeds to rise to the top of the cordon bleu food chain. It sounds bizarre, I know, but somehow, between the multiple near escapes that Remy goes through, his wild adventures through the kitchen, his relationship with his old-fashioned father and one particularly brilliant slap-dashing chase through Paris, you tend not to notice.
If Ratatouille succeeds (and succeed it does, though it isn't, in my opinion, quite the movie Bird's The Incredibles was) it's because the real fantasy here isn't a rat making good as a chef, it's the idea that with sufficient inspiration and a little bit of luck we can all beat the odds and succeed at whatever it is that moves and / or inspires us, just as long as we're clear on what that is. Ratatouille may not be great cinema, but as an appetizing way to spend a Sunday morning, delicately balancing the flavors of humor, charm, fantasy and excitement, it's pretty hard to beat.
 In my case it lasted all of five minutes, during which I pictured myself dicing and slicing and sauteing with the casual ease of that Jackie Chan of the kitchen - Martin Yan. Then reality struck.