**** (out of 5)
June 29, 2007
Patton Oswalt as REMY
Ian Holm as SKINNER
Lou Romano as LINGUINI
Brian Dennehy as DJANGO
Peter Sohn as EMILE
Peter O’Toole as ANTON EGO
Brad Garrett as GUSTEAU
Janeane Garofalo as COLETTE
Directed by: Brad Bird
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The biggest thing that stood out for me about the computer animation in “Ratatouille” is how much it didn’t stand out.
That’s not to say the animation was bad. Quite the opposite, really. Pixar’s animation has become so good that I have ceased being amazed by it. I no longer marvel at how real something looks but just accept it as real. I have to keep telling myself that everything I see in the film has been generated in a completely virtual environment. And even then, it’s not amazing because my brain refuses to believe it’s artificial.
And that’s what’s truly amazing about “Ratatouille.”
However, beyond the oh-my-God realism of the computer animation, there’s a sweet, heartwarming story that we’ve come to expect from a Pixar film.
“Ratatouille” tells the story of Remy, a rat living outside of Paris, who dreams of becoming a master chef. He’s just not content to eat the garbage of humans. He wants to cook like a human. However, being a rat has its disadvantages.
Through a series of mishaps, Remy finds his way to Paris and wanders into a restaurant’s kitchen. One day while he was experimenting with the soup while the chefs aren’t looking, he’s discovered. The chef sends the garbage boy Linguini to dispose of Remy, but he can’t bring himself to do it.
Soon, Remy and Linguini find that they can learn from each other. Although Linguini can’t cook, Remy can, so they strike up a unique symbiotic relationship and become one of the best chefs in all of Paris.
“Ratatouille” actually has a pretty complicated story for your standard G-rated animated film. And also with this, it’s made with a lot more finesse than you’d expect from the slew of CGI films we’ve been bombarded with in the past two years.
However, it is this finesse and sophistication that makes “Ratatouille” a real winner. It may not be suitable for the younger viewers (read as: under five years old), not for any reason other than they might get restless during the conversational scenes.
“Ratatouille” isn’t a chance for the folks at Pixar to do an array of song and dance numbers with cute, anthropomorphized rodents. Breaking with the general Disney tradition of being cute first and telling a story second, director Brad Bird really works his magic to make a work of art come alive on the big screen.
As is expected with any Pixar movie, the voice cast is excellent. Patton Oswalt lends a certain degree of vulnerability and sympathy to the main character, and a supporting cast of Pixar voice regulars like Brad Garrett and John Ratzenberger fill out the film well. Of course, the best voice performance comes from Peter O’Toole as the ominous food critic Anton Ego. O’Toole seems to have been born to play this role, making him one of the most dynamic characters on screen.
“Ratatouille” manages to simultaneously provide everything we love about Pixar movies while forging a new path. It’s a great kids’ movie, although it has more class and doesn’t rely on raw scatological jokes to get a laugh. (Not that there’s anything wrong with scatological humor, but it’s nice to see someone make a kids’ movie without it for a change.)
But at the same time, “Ratatouille” is a great film for the parents. They will understand the situations and humor more than the kids, making the movie a solid bet for the entire family to enjoy.