Theatrical Review: Ratatouille

Remy is a rat, but a rat that’s quite a bit different than his family- Remy likes the finer things, he doesn’t eat garbage and he has a palette and a sense of smell for gourmet cuisine. Remy idolizes a human French chef named Gusteau, who has one of the finest five-star restaurants in all of Paris, but that restaurant has been brought down to a three-star restaurant thanks to a food critic named Anton Ego. Now, through a series of events, Remy has found himself allied with a young man named Linguini, as they both seek to find themselves in worlds totally unfamiliar to both: Linguini in trying to belong in a restaurant and Remy, in the world of humans.

And that’s the basic premise in a nutshell to Ratatouille the newest film from Pixar studios and the follow-up to the previous collaboration between Pixar and writer/director Brad Bird’s, The Incredibles and it is quite simply one of the best movies of the year, easily something that will make it near the top of my Top 10 list for 2007. There is of course, way more to this story than I’m telling you above, but really to say any more would be to deny you the pleasure of watching this unfold for yourself.

The credit for just how fantastic this film is is primarily Brad Bird’s who has certainly demonstrated in both The Iron Giant and The Incredibles a need to advance the animation artform in this country. Both of those movies are high watermarks for both 2D and 3D animation, and Ratatouille raises that bar even higher… not just with it’s beautifully stunning 3D animation, but also with it’s story, a story that is certainly universal for all audiences, but really having a way more pleasant appeal, at least in my eyes, for a more mature crowd. Bird, in his previous films, has had a bit of a retro feel to those movies as well, and he does it here too. Ratatouille at times feels like the sort of movie that Blake Edwards would’ve made back in his heyday.

Pixar’s animation makes something like Shrek The Third look like it was done by amateurs, that’s just how advanced this looks. Camera angles, lighting, attention to detail and above all, characterization is just a step beyond what we’ve been seeing in computer animation, and you just want to bask in this over and over again. The thing is, Pixar does this well enough on their own, but when working with Bird, their game is stepped up, and Bird’s mind takes their tools and works them in directions that’s just not typical for these films. The combination of these talents, and their willingness to work with some more uncoventional story elements is what makes movies like The Incredibles and Ratatouille not just great animated films, but great movies beyond the form.

There’s some really fine voice acting at work here too… Patton Oswalt is the voice of Remy and he’s just terrific here, bringing a real earnestness to the part that sort of reminds me of a Michael J. Fox back in his better days. Ian Holm is the voice of Skinner, the chef who’s taken over Gusteau’s and his just might be the best voice work in the film, very emotive, but also totally filled with character. Peter O’Toole is the voice of Anton Ego and as with anything Peter O’Toole ever says on screen, you’re just totally enthralled when he speaks. The whole film has been voice-casted with careful attention, and these aren’t just computer animation models on screen, but totally feel like living, breathing characters.

This was another film that I got to see in digital projection and that was just icing on the cake on a truly fantastic film experience. For a film that has food as one of it’s centerpieces, it actually makes that computer generated food look luscious and succulent and leaves you wanting to eat at the end of the film… and I’ve never seen an animated movie that has done that before. Do not miss this movie, like I said above, easily one of the very best movies of the year…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

02. July 2007 by Darren Goodhart
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