Pixar continues to amaze with Ratatouille. While their previous film, Cars, was a letdown in the story department, Ratatouille may well rank in their top three finest efforts. The story is engaging, the animation groundbreaking, and the heart pouring from the screen. This is a gorgeous film, and it may be Pixar’s first that entertains adults first, children second.
Remy the rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt) has one dream in life: to be a world-class chef in Paris. His idol is Gusteau, a plump man whose phrase “anyone can cook!” resonates immediately with Remy. The problem is, of course, that rats aren’t welcome in the kitchen. Remy’s chance, however, comes in the form of a young, klutzy newcomer named Linguini (voiced by Lou Romano). One night Remy is caught stealing food from the Gusteau kitchen, and the head chef, Skinner (voiced by Ian Holm), orders Linguini to kill Remy. The two team up, since Linguini can’t cook at all and must save his job, and become the toast of Paris. Meanwhile, sinister food critic Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O’Toole) has put Gusteau’s place on his chopping block. Can the restaurant be saved?
Writer/Director Brad Bird marries nearly every element we love about the movies into this feature. He grabs the audience emotionally and takes us for a true adventure. The main reason Pixar blows their competition out of the water is because their team crafts actual original stories with well-defined characters. Bird wisely avoids what is so hit-and-miss about the genre these days, namely pop culture stabs and unproven big-celebrity voice talent.
Pixar characters are always memorable, but Ratatouille’s may be the best ensemble yet. Oswalt is the perfect voice for Remy; energetic and full of life, but never over-the-top. The supporting characters are a blast, particularly Holm as Skinner, the miniature, bossy head chef who just knows there’s something fishy going on with Linguini. The show-stopper is O’Toole as Ego, the most perfect personification of a critic in the history of film. Writing from his spacious office decked out with an over-sized portrait of himself, Ego gets laughs from nearly every word he speaks. O’Toole brings just the right amount of snob to the role and knocks it out of the park.
Ratatouille is first-rate entertainment with the moral takeaways of understanding and giving it all you got, all the time. This is wrapped around Pixar’s most stunning animation yet, complete with every last detail of its surroundings and a few sweeping camera shots that will leave you breathless. In a summer of disappointing big-budget cash grabs and unoriginal material on the whole, Ratatouille is just the delicacy the customer ordered – and one of the best films of the year.
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Length: 110 Minutes
Theatrical Release: June 29, 2007
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Brad Bird
Cast: Patton Oswalt (voice), Ian Holm (voice), Lou Romano (voice), Brian Dennehy (voice), Peter Sohn (voice), Peter O’Toole (voice)
I just saw “Ratatouille” tonight.
It’s a first class movie. Several thoughts come to mind…
-The character performances are so good, I think there’s no sort of movie they couldn’t make. I’ve heard Pixar’s John Carter of Mars is going to be live action? No! I want them to do it all animated.
-“Cars” definitely _was_ a lower-value softball they threw to finish out that original Disney-gets-half-of-everything-plus-sequel-rights contract they were in at the time. I remember all the clucking last summer about how Pixar had lost its way.
-There were a few moments when they seemed to lose that stylized reality they had established and things looked merely “real”.
-There was one scene in the latter part of the film where I thought “I can’t believe they are doing this tired movie cliché” but they pulled out of it at the last second and made it something new.
-The 2D-ish end credits were great. Stick it out to the very end to see the mo-cap disclaimer!
-With this, Brad Bird is certainly one of the animation gods now.