Friday, March 07, 2008

Ratatouille (2007)

(Image from IMP Awards)

Ratatouille (2007)

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.


CyberKitten said...

Not one of my fave Pixar movies. I mean it was very well animated and everything & quite clever.... but it just didn't do anything for me - unlike The Incredibles.

Shame really. I think that it had potential.

Darwin said...

I still haven't seen this so really need to get my hands on a decent copy soon.

Personally I'm not averse to rats so I can find them quite cute sometimes. Cockroaches on the other hand...

Antimatter said...

CK, I'm assuming you prefer it to Cars though? :) That movie looks un-great and the reviews weren't exactly glowing, so I skipped it, Pixar be damned. The Incredibles was terrific though, I agree.

Darwin, rats can be cute? Mice maybe, but RATS?!? Only when they're animated. And I mean in the cartoon way, not the lively way.

CyberKitten said...

AM said: CK, I'm assuming you prefer it to Cars though? :) That movie looks un-great and the reviews weren't exactly glowing, so I skipped it, Pixar be damned. The Incredibles was terrific though, I agree.

Cars was OK & did have a few laugh out loud moments but again didn't really 'do' anything for me. Strange as it may seem I think Pixar have lost their way by being too 'American' and overly sentimental. The Incredibles was 'knowing' in a very sophisicated way that delights every time I see it.

Miedy said...

I am an adult and I really like it, although I still like Finding Nemo and The Incredibles the best. Pixar is the best! They makes me don't really care with the same genre but from different company. I can't wait for Walle. I think it's gonna be great as well.

Antimatter said...

CK, I didn't find Ratatouille to be overly sentimental to be honest!

Miedy, Wall-E looks very interesting; apparently there isn't much in the way of dialogue in the film, which could be either brilliant or a disaster.

Miedy said...

It's true but I hope it's gonna be brilliant of course because I already have such a HIGH hope for it :)