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Faaaabulous Pixar pics were the rule until Cars crashed into multiplexes last year. The mix was wrong in that one — lots of digital vim, not enough emotional vigor. But the studio's animators have got the recipe right this time, in a tale of mistaken identity, haute cuisine and rambunctious rodents.

The story concerns Remy, a Parisian rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt) who dreams of culinary glory working as a fine French chef, but who needs a front man who won't cause screams in the kitchen. He finds one in Linguini (Lou Romano), a garbage boy with no noticeable gustatory talent who's willing to play puppet to Remy's puppeteer in order to keep his job — and, incidentally, to pursue a pretty sous-chef (Janeane Garofalo).

You expect kitchen slapstick; you get something that's closer to kitchen ballet, with food so lovingly digitized you can tell stale bread from fresh. More than that: You get a story with real sturm und drang and a lot of heart. It's Cyrano de Bergerat, and it's not just amusing, it's downright enchanting, from its faintly harrowing rat swarms (Remy's family drops by his workplace on occasion) to its hilariously demanding food critic, Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole). Kids will gobble it up while parents relish its wit — and everyone will want to go out to eat afterward. (Recommended)

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.