Once again, Hollywood showed that it either is pretty slim on ideas or has real bad corporate espionage, otherwise WHY make so damned many similarly-themed movies? There was Madagascar in 2005, followed by The Wild in 2006; Happy Feet in 2006, followed by Surf's Up in 2007; and Flushed Away in 2006, now followed by Ratatouille in 2007 ... one would think that the various studios would "get wind of" very similar stories of zoo animals, penguins, or rats in development nearly simultaneously, but I guess we have to think this was just "in the water" at a given time. Frankly, I had "Flushed Away" flashbacks a couple of times in this film, and I can't help but think these were triggered intentionally (much like how that film had blatant nods to other projects).
To tell the truth, I was uncomfortable through much of the film, having worked in the Food Industry for a long time, and the whole "fancy French restaurant" thing was hitting a lot of buttons for me, so my take on the movie was likely to be reasonably unusual. Frankly, I walked out of the movie feeling depressed ... largely because they were parading 3-5 star Parisian cuisine in front of me and it has been many LONG years since I've been able to really afford to have any top-notch restaurant cooking, and I miss it terribly. Back in my P.R. days, we'd eat out in fine restaurants 2-3 times a week, and these days I'm lucky if I manage the equivalent 2-3 times a year. Anyway, that's the level that I connected with this movie!
I was surprised to see some of the names involved when I got home and punched up IMDB.com ... none of the voice talent was featured in ads, and you have to stick around through a ton of credits to get the point where they very quickly scroll the cast. For instance, the female lead is voiced by Janeane Garofalo, the Famous Chef is voiced by Brad Garrett (both of these doing thick French accents), the evil Restaurant Reviewer being voiced by Peter O'Toole (!), and roles voiced by Brian Dennehy and John Ratzenberger. I suppose that having three of the main characters being voiced by nearly unknown actors might make it a bit difficult playing up the names in the supporting cast, but it does seem odd that one pretty much has to go on the web to find this info!
Technically, of course, the film is superb ... the level of computer animation that Pixar is delivering creates a very nearly seamless world that sucks the viewer right in. The story, while certainly far-fetched, plays out with an internal logic, plot twists, and emotional involvement. My not enjoying it (as much as The Girls and The Wife seemed to) I think has more to do with MY issues around the "fine cuisine" story line than the movie itself. As such, I think this could well be recommended to anyone, as it has as much to deliver to adults (as a comedy) as to the kids (as a cartoon).