How often in today's environment does a film leave you with a grin on your
face? Very few movies do that. Once again, writer/director Brad Bird comes
to our cinematic yearning for entertainment that is smart, cute, exciting
and moving. His story of a rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt), who yearns to be
a chef, does nearly everything right in so many ways. "Ratatouille" is now
on DVD and Blu-ray disc.
The idea of a rat being in the kitchen is quite repulsive. Who in the world
would tackle that idea for a movie? Brad Bird, that's who. He does it with
such expertise that you forget the very idea of vermin cooking up gourmet
meals. After all, millions of children want their picture taken with a giant
Mouse, so what's wrong with a rat cooking soufflé? This is animation, so
anything goes. It's what the meal tastes like after it's been cooked, not
what goes into the pot. Bird is such a strong writer/director that we
comfortably sit at our table and wait for whatever he sends out of the
Remy, nicely played by Oswalt, is such an expressive little character. His
mannerisms (he's a refined rat), movement and body language are fluid and
very much like, well, a real rat. When he's in the kitchen of Gusteau's, he
moves and darts with such precision against the dangers of falling pots and
pans, fire and people, that we grab onto our chair arms with tension. I
enjoyed how Remy's emotions, like humans, are expressed through his eyes.
The way he communicates with Linguini (Lou Romano) shows the eye for detail
that makes Bird such a strong director (the film was co-directed by
Remy's journey from the fields of France to Gusteau's kitchen has traces of
"Pixarian" humor and action. The scene in which Remy and his brother Emile
(Peter Sohn) are blasted at by an old lady shows off Pixar's animation
chops. The ghost of Gusteau (Brad Garrett) has traces of Jiminy Cricket as
Remy's conscience, and this provides a sweet interplay between the two
characters. The film is in tune with animation's past, but puts in its own
The voice talent utilizes both known actors and unknown actors. Unlike of a
lot of today's animation promotion, Pixar thankfully foregoes hyping the
stars of the film. Even though some of the voices are instantly
recognizable, Pixar films tend to get you into the story first. I was hard
pressed to notice
Janeane Garofalo's voice in the character of Colette. Brad Garrett is
delightful as Gusteau, and I found Skinner (Ian Holm) to be wonderfully
voiced and funny to watch bouncing about the kitchen. Lou Romano gives a
good performance as Remy's alter ego, Linguini.
Nearly everything about "Ratatouille" hits the mark. The production design
renders Paris beautifully.
I went to Paris once in my life, last year to be exact. Like most Americans,
I fell in love with the city. Instead of taking a sightseeing bus, I acted
as my own tour guide and simply roamed the streets on my own. I got lost and
would find myself at the Louvre. I'd take a turn and find myself standing in
front of the Arch de Triumph. I'd walk the same walk near Notre Dame as Remy
did and admire the beautiful cathedral across the River Seine. Everything
you see about the romantic atmosphere of Paris is captured in "Ratatouille."
Michael Giacchino is one of today's best composers. He's created a score
that has a mixture of French music, traditional classic film music, and
jazz. It's a lush and romantic work that can, and should, be enjoyed on its
own merits. Most of the movies made today rely on "needle drop" or "spray
painted" soundtracks. Either you hear the millionth playback of James
Brown's "I Feel Good" or Steppenwolf's "Born To Wild" in a movie. And most
songs have nothing to do with the movie, other than to speed up the pace of
a scene or montage. Giacchino's score fits in with Remy & Linguini's
adventures quite well. It's nice to hear a score that compliments the film
rather than calling attention to itself.
If there is a weakness to the film, it's that Linguini doesn't have a very
strong personality. Perhaps what makes Linguini almost too passive is that
the other characters who populate "Ratatouille" have very strong
personalities. Remy, Colette, Skinner or Ego dominate the screen, whereas
Linguini occupies it. This, of course, isn't by any stretch of the
imagination a deal killer. The camaraderie of Linguini and Remy is rewarding
and pleasing, despite the character flaws of Linguini. He's a young man who
doesn't seem to have much ambition, even toward the end of the film. Events
just fall in his lap. There's nothing wrong with that, but I was hoping that
he'd take better command of the happenings in his life. Maybe that was
Bird's intent. Linguini isn't a bad character and he's completely watchable.
Linguini is voiced perfectly and animated well as any Pixar human. I guess I
had wished for him to rely less on Remy and more on himself.
Worth noting is Peter O'Toole's performance as Anton Ego, a nasty food
critic. Arrogant and scary, Ego is every bit of a critic a budding chef
would fear. O'Toole relishes the role and makes his presence known for the
few times he's on screen. What inspired casting to get one of the world's
finest actors to play Ego.
One of the most delightful treats on the "Ratatouille" DVD is a new short
film called "Your Friend The Rat." Pixar has made short films since its
humble start with "The Adventures of André and Wally B." (1984), and
continues to refine itself with these shorts. Directed by Jim Capobianco,
this is one of the cleverest and funniest shorts I've seen in years. The
short has a mix of traditional 2-D, 3-D, and stop motion animation, with a
nod to some of Disney's classic shorts like "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom"
(1953) and "Noah's Ark" (1959). "Rat" is as fun as almost any of the classic
Disney shorts by Ward Kimball or Bill Justice. Remy and brother Emile take
us through the history of man's evolution with the rat. We see the perils of
being a rat through a humorous collection of skits. The pace is fast and the
various animation techniques will leave an animation buff breathless.
For all the mediocre movies that are released in a given year, isn't it
refreshing to see a film that is downright extraordinary? My compliments to
all the cooks in "Ratatouille" kitchen, particularly Chef Brad Bird. This is
a delightful treat that satisfies my appetite for first-rate filmmaking.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Disney/Pixar. All rights reserved.
Compliments to the chef
Directors: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Peter Sohn, Janeane Garofalo, Brad Garrett,
Deleted scenes, excellent short film
"Your Friend The Rat," and more
How'd they make those rats looks so
real, yet cute?
Brad Bird early in his career made "Family Dog"
Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD RELEASE DATE
November 6, 2007