Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Ratatouille is the latest release from Pixar, written and directed by Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, and the Incredibles). I have grown to expect nothing short of near perfection from Pixar, with almost every single one of their movies being among my favorite animated films of all time. Ratatouille just continues this tradition of excellence.

Before I get into the meat of the movie, I need to mention the short that preceeded it- "Lifted". Accompanying each Pixar feature there is always a short, in the tradition of the cartoons that accompanied movies back in the 30's and 40's in the golden age of animation. LIfted opens with an Alien Abduction, but it is quickly revealed to be an abduction in training- sort of like driver's ed. Honestly, I heard more laughs during these five minutes, than during the rest of the movie. This was Gary Rydstrom's directorial debut, and I'm expecting good things out of him.

Now for the movie itself. It's not the best Pixar movie ever, but it's pretty good. Ratatouille follows Remmy (Patton Oswald), a rat who had an uncanny ability to cook. In the beginning of the movie, he gets separated from his family and winds up alone in Paris. After a series of unlikely events, he gets hooked up with Linguini (Lou Romano), a garbage boy in a fancy, but fledgling restaurant. Between the two of them, they create a wonderful chef, with Remmy creating the food, and Linguini being...well...human. They work out a system where Remmy controls Linguini by pulling his hair. Together they bring the restaurant back into the public eye.

The thing that really sets this (and most Pixar movies) apart from other animated features such as the Shrek series, are that these movies are original, with humor pertaining to the characters and plot. There aren't just throwaway gags- the jokes further the story. This is an important, and very refreshing attribute to Pixar's movies. Remmy controlling Linguini provides a large batch of the gags, relying on physical humor reminiscent of the pratfalls of the great silent comedians. There is a perfect balance between these gags, characters foibles, and plot developments.

The movie is filled with many colorful characters, humans and other. Remmy has an interesting relationship with his family, as does Linguini with the rest of the kitchen staff- even a romantic interest (Janeane Gorafalo). Some of the themes explored in family, and trust, and deceit might be a little foreign to a younger audience making this a more mature animated feature.

The animation, though not as wide in scope as Shrek, was still fantastic. The rats were almost a little too rat-like, and having them in the kitchen could make some uneasy- though it is important to note the Remmy always made a special point to wash his hands. the humans follow the Pixar trademark of being very cartoonishly animated. While other companies are making strides towards realism, Pixar's movies tend to favor cartoonish style. This isn't good or bad, just a different style, making the human characters very exaggerated (including a fantastically created food critic played by Peter O'toole.

One thing that I really found delightful about this movie is that I wasn't able to recognize any of the voices. This made the characters truly themselves not "oh wow, that's (insert celebrity)." I was genuinely engrossed in the story. When watching this movie, as with most animated movies, you just have to suspend your disbelief, and just accept everything that's presented to you. Just go in and have a good time.


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