Ratatouille by Various Artists
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As befits an American movie set in France, this score starts off by quoting the French national anthem; fortunately, Michael Giacchino quickly turns off the cliché tap and gets the fun started. The composer, best known for his work on Alias
shows he can do light and nimble--and elegant, too: not many animated/kiddie movies have scores that evoke vintage Henry Mancini ("Losing Control"). "Wall Rat" is a good example of Giacchino's MO: It begins with a slightly melancholy melody played on the cello; that thread soon gives way to flutes and piccolo violins, which of course evoke the scampering of little feet--and that's when the bongos come in. Actually, those delicious bongos pop up regularly, flavoring the jazzy feel of "Cast of Cooks" or the tango-style "Special Order." Even when Giacchino uses that universal signifier of all things Gallic, the accordion, he does it sparingly ("A New Deal," "Ratatouille Main Theme") and with flair. And of course, Giacchino throws everything but the proverbial kitchen sink in the sprawling "End Creditouilles." Note that this instrumental CD starts off with the quirky pop song "Le Festin" (the feast) by the wonderful French vocalist Camille. --Elisabeth Vincentelli