Wednesday, September 12, 2007

WAAYY Overdue Movie Review: Ratatouille


In Brief: What's Good

  • Excellent graphics & animation, as usual with all Pixar films.

  • Cute and well-designed (although a little flawed and occasionally creepy) story.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • A bit formulaic and predictable at times.

  • Even though it's a cartoon, it's still a little hard to accept a rat who knows how to cook and who gets his chance by hiding under a human's hat and controlling his actions.

  • Some of the French accents are pretty thick at times. If it's hard for me to understand occasionally, I would think little kids would have even more trouble.

  • I couldn't help but wonder if some of the food names and cooking terminology would be hard for kids to understand too.

  • Some of the backstory of Linguini's character also seem to be a little mature for kids.

C+ Story
B- Acting
B- Directing
A Visuals

Patton Oswalt voices Remy, a rat from the French countryside who is not your typical rat. Remy knows how to read, enjoys watching cooking shows on TV, and has a nose for foods of higher quality than most rats are used to eating. Remy is more ambitious than his father Django (Brian Dennehy), brother Emile (Peter Sohn), and other rats of his clan. He longs to move to the city and to become a chef like a human.

One day, through odd circumstances, Remy is separated from his family and given the chance to pursue his dream at a once famous Parisian restaurant, Gusteau's, named after it's former owner and head chef who has now passed away. There, he meets Linguini (Lou Romano), an accident-prone dish washer who becomes the key to Remy becoming a chef in a real restaurant without being run out for being a rat.

Rounding out the cast are Ian Holm as Skinner, the former sous-chef at Gusteau's who has taken over the restaurant and has greedy plans for Gusteau's recipes; Brad Garrett as the ghost of Gusteau; Janeane Garofalo as Gusteau's only female cook named Colette; Peter O'Toole as Anton Ego, the creepy restaurant critic who may determine the fate of Gusteau's in his next review; and the Pixar veteran John Ratzenberger in the supporting role of Mustafa, the waiter/host at Gusteau's.

Ratatouille is a cute movie that works well enough if you don't take it too seriously. You have to buy into the idea that in the animated world, one rat out of billions can somehow be special enough to read, cook, walk on its hind legs, and communicate non-verbally with a human. If you can do that, you're halfway to enjoying the movie.

But, I have to admit, it still remained creepy throughout the entire movie that a rat, no matter how unusually talented, would cook meals in a public restaurant. Most animated movies about "cute" animals usually advocate the life, rights, emotions, and natural behaviors of those animals. But, in this movie, anytime we're reminded that humans are freaked out by rats, don't like rats in kitchens, and even employ the use of traps and poisons to kill rats, I still felt compelled to side with the humans, rather than the rats--even Remy, the one who seems un-naturally humanlike. Rats carry germs and diseases no matter how smart they are. No amount of animation can make you un-realize that fact.

When it comes to "buying into" the concept, you have to go one step further still when Remy learns how to control a human's hands, arms, and legs, by pulling on the human's hair. For one thing, pulling on a person's hair does not control them like a puppet, and even if it did, that person's scalp would hurt like crazy after a day's work in a busy kitchen. It's just one more unrealistic concept, and therefore, one more reason to continually remind yourself, "It's just a cartoon. Get over it. It's just a cartoon."

In the Pixar movie Cars, it takes a few minutes to buy into the concept of a world in which humans don't exist and different forms of vehicles are the people. That's one big, overall concept. Once you accept that concept, the rest of the movie makes sense. Ratatouille, however, seems forced to explain itself as it goes and continually make excuses for why it should be okay for a rat to be in a kitchen.

While kids, who are used to watching cartoons about animals that act like people, will probably be bothered much less by rats, I would think the thick French accents, the food names and cooking terminology, and some aspects of Linguini's family history, would be a bit confusing to kids. In fact, a friend told me that his two kids did get bored at the movie. I wonder just who this movie was made for. Adults will better understand the accents and cooking content, but kids could more easily overlook the "rat problem" and just enjoy the colorful animation.

I'm probably making the movie sound worse than it is because I'm nitpicking the few small things that are wrong with it. Overall, it is still cute, funny, well-voiced, flawlessly animated, and *almost* heartfelt at times. While I would rank this at the bottom or next to bottom among Pixar's eight feature-length films, it's not like Pixar has ever made a bad film. Pixar may be the best film studio out there because they simply refuse to make a bad film. Ratatouille is another respectable Pixar installment, just not as good as their other films, especially Finding Nemo and A Bug's Life.

Fun Facts from Internet Movie Database

To find out how to animate the scene where the chef is wet, they dressed someone in a chef suit and put him in a swimming pool. That way, they could see what parts of the suit stuck to his body and which parts you could see through.

Fun Facts from Wikipedia

An aquarium of pet rats sat in a hallway for more than a year so that animators could study the movements and behaviors of rats. John Ratzenberger notes he often segued into an Italian accent.


Chris Knight said...

Great reviews dude! Well as nuts as I went for Transformers I'm gonna kinda have to disagree about that one but most of these others I haven't seen yet but you got me wanting to check them out :-)

umberhaven said...

Yeah, as well as we agreed on Spider-Man 3, I was disappointed to see us split on Transformers. But, everyone's different.

Thanks for checking out the reviews. I still have a couple more to catch up on: The Bourne Ultimatum and Rush Hour 3.

Glad to see that Viacom gave in and restored your clip for you.