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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We turn now for a review of "Ratatouille," the movie from animation director Brad Bird, known for "The Incredibles" and "The Iron Giant."

Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has this review of his new film.

KENNETH TURAN: Brad Bird, writer-director of "Ratatouille", is one of the reasons we're living in a golden age of animation. But what makes Bird special is that he doesn't think of himself as an animator at all. Refusing to be ghettoized, he aims for the emotional force of live action fare.

"Ratatouille" is typically audacious. It's the story of another creature that refuses to be ghettoized. That would be a rat - yes, a rat - named Remy with the palette of an epicure and a passion to be the greatest chef in the world.

(Soundbite of movie "Ratatouille")

Mr. LOU ROMANO (Actor) (As Linguini): He's ruining the soup and nobody's noticing it here. It's your restaurant, do something.

TURAN: One of the joys of "Ratatouille" is watching the collaboration between a kitchen boy and Remy. Remy wouldn't be allowed anywhere near a kitchen without the boy as a front man, and the boy can't cook without Remy's guidance.

(Soundbite of movie "Ratatouille")

Mr. ROMANO: (As Linguini) Don't look at me like that. You weren't the only one who's trapped. They expect me to cook it again. I mean, I'm not ambitious. I wasn't trying to cook; I was just trying to stay out of trouble. You're the one who was getting fancy with the spices. What did you throw in there? Oregano? No? What, Rosemary? That's a spice, isn't it? Rosemary? You didn't throw rosemary in there?

TURAN: "Ratatouille" is smart and sophisticated, but it also takes full advantage of computer animation. Director Bird and his team love great chases, wild rides and wacky adventures. Setting them in a breathtakingly beautiful Paris and the unnerving sewers beneath the city can only help.

The idea of making a rat the hero of a major motion picture is a lot nervier than using penguins or other cuddly folk. And "Ratatouille" is surprisingly candid about letting rats be rats. These creatures swarm so realistically that asking audiences to accept them as heroes is the riskiest of gambits.

Yet this is exactly what Bird and his gang accomplish. They've made "Ratatouille" so imaginative, good-spirited and funny that it not only blurs the line between reality and fantasy, it manages to blur it between species as well.

Getting a leopard to change its spots would be nothing compared to what these characters are asked to do, but "Ratatouille" makes it look like the most natural thing in the world.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. And you can see clips of "Ratatouille" at npr.org.

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