Friday, March 07, 2008
(Image from IMP Awards)
Brad Bird has made a couple of fantastic animated movies in the form of The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, so it's unsurprising that his latest film, his second 3D collaboration with Pixar, is in the same league. 'Ratatouille' tells the story of Remy (Patton Oswalt), a rat who has well developed senses and has a passion for food and cooking, a passion that runs counter to the behaviour of the other rats who are content to simply eat whatever garbage they find. Remy winds up at a restaurant in Paris where he befriends a human, Linguini (Lou Romano), who is a lowly garbage boy. Remy uses his culinary skills and an innovative control system to turn Linguini into a cooking sensation, which draws the ire of the head chef Skinner (Ian Holm) and the attention of merciless food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole), as well as the disapproval of Remy's family who believe that rats have no place in the world of men.
First up, yes the idea of rats within visual proximity to food is and always will be plain disgusting, and no this film is not going to make you feel any kind of affection for the dirty little bastards. But, for the duration of the film it should make you forget your aversion towards them, because it's bloody charming, funny, and just plain entertaining. To use a trite expression - it has heart. But it also has the type of depth that makes Bird's (and Pixar's) films more than just throwaway entertainment, and more than just for kids. This film is about art and the passion that can consume great artists wherever they may hail from while chastising the crass commercialization that can infringe on artistic integrity, and it makes a sly critique of the profession of criticism while validating it at the same time. It also has something to say about honesty and hard work, and breaking down the barriers people put up based on the notion of 'the way things are'.
Yeah, that sounds a bit much for family entertainment, but the film's themes are finely integrated with the story and characters and only rarely feel obvious or heavy handed. Above all else, it's a wonderful, joyous tale that uses all the cinematic tools at its disposal to tell its story. The animation is stunning and realizes the design work and the movement and energy of every sequence in the film superbly. The rats are disgusting, but you can't help but admire the lavish detail and the anthropomorphized rat designs with their realistic fur and funny mannerisms. And some of the sequences on offer are amazing, like when Remy experiments with different foods, an experience that the film represents through visual colour patterns and music, and all of the cooking scenes - yeah, that CGI food looks mouth watering, even if it was prepared by a dirty rat (I don't care how many times he washes his paws, he's a rat). And of course there's the music and voice work, both of which are stellar.
I don't know if I'd call 'Ratatouille' a classic in the vein of 'The Iron Giant' or 'The Incredibles', but it is an excellent film and worthy of all the accolades it has received. Good stuff for kids and adults alike (though perhaps I'm not qualified to claim to know what adults want!), and a must see for fans of animation, Brad Bird, or Pixar.