September 29, 2009

Ratatouille (2007)

LET ME PREFACE this review by saying that I love the stand-up comedy of Patton Oswalt. His material and delivery make him accessible yet intelligent and, above all, funny as hell.

I’m also a fan of director Brad Bird. Specifically, I’m a major fan of his animated movies. After his terrific films The Incredibles and The Iron Giant, he could retire and no one would fault him.

So when I heard in early 2007 that Oswalt would be the lead voice in Ratatouille, a Pixar film directed by Bird, I was ecstatic. My favorite comedian, a genius of animated film, and inarguably the powerhouse in animated storytelling? I couldn’t wait.

A rat named Remy (Oswalt) dreams of breaking free from his family’s pack of scrounging rats and becoming a gourmet chef, following his idol Gusteau (Brad Garrett).


I really, really wanted to love Ratatouille. I was ready to follow Remy for two hours on his quest for something more than stealing garbage to survive…to rise above the stigma of being a rat and live his dream of being a great chef.

But 30 minutes in, the story detours from Remy’s quest and to the trials of Linguine (Lou Romano), a garbage boy at Gusteau’s restaurant who’s mistakenly praised for a terrific soup that Remy made and is forced to repeat his success (with a large assist from Remy, who hides under Linguine’s chef hat and pulls his hair to move Linguine’s arms).

So for the middle third of the film, it’s all about the humans: Linguine trying to repeat his earlier, accidental success; fellow chef Colette (a terrific yet unrecognizable Janeane Garofalo) begrudgingly helping him; and the surly head chef (Ian Holm) trying to stop him.

And frankly, the whole gimmick of Remy sitting under Linguine’s chef hat and working him like a puppet feels beneath Bird – and for a Pixar film, it smacks of laziness.

I hate to be simplistic, but with Disney and Pixar, I want – and expect – escapism. Bring on the talking animals or objects, not a cast of animated humans. (For the record, The Incredibles were superhumans, so they get a pass.) I mean, think of the Disney animated films with predominately human casts: Pocahontas. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Hercules. Tarzan. All largely forgotten.

Still, it’s unfair to fault Bird for all of Ratatouille’s shortcomings. According to the excellent book The Pixar Touch, Bird inherited the project from Pixar brass after they felt original director and story creator Jan Pinkava’s vision was lacking.

On the plus side, the way Ratatouille treats food and cooking is irresistible. You will want to eat rich, delicious meals after the movie ends. And as usual with Pixar, the animation is flawless. (Can we officially take this as a given from now on?) The movements, the expressions, the scenery, the Paris skyline…simply amazing.

Going into Ratatouille, I was really hoping (and was quite confident) that based on the talent involved, it would be my favorite Pixar movie. Unfortunately, it rests just above A Bug’s Life as my least favorite.


Will your kids like it?
If you're kids are like Dash, they’ll probably be less critical of Ratatouille than adult Pixar snobs like myself – though with a 111-minute running time and long stretches of dialogue without action, I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose interest before the end.

And even though Ratatouille is rated G, there are some elements which make you wonder why it wasn’t rated PG, including:
• Comic gunplay as an old lady shoots at the rats infesting her home
• Skinner tells Linguine “welcome to hell” on his first day as a chef
• Skinner gets Linguine drunk to get the truth about how he cooks so well
• A whole subplot of whether Linguine is Gusteau’s illegitimate son
• Rows of dead rats hang in a storefront window of a pest control company

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
My wife was as underwhelmed with Ratatouille as I was. If you’re looking for a Pixar film to enjoy together, there so many better ones to choose from. May I suggest: The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo

Step away from the soup...

• Director: Brad Bird
• Screenwriter: Brad Bird
• Stars: Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O'Toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo
• MPAA Rating: G

Buy Ratatouille for less at >>
Buy The Pixar Touch (2009 Paperback) for less at >>
Buy The Pixar Touch (2008 Hardcover) for less at >>
Rent Ratatouille from Netflix >>


Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Retro Hound said...

I really didn't like this film and my wife couldn't get over "there are rats in the kitchen!"

PS did you get my email?

Keith said...

I'm sorry that all of you guys didn't really like this film that much. I loved it. Everybody I've known who had watched it has enjoyed it as much as I have. Oh well. Different strokes for different folks.

James (SeattleDad) said...

When the time comes, and there are so many to chose to watch with my son, it will be nice to know which not to chose. Thanks for the heads up.

Gemma said...

Awwww...I loved this film. I do agree that it was a bit long, especially in the middle. But it did have Dad guffawing in the theater several times. Yes, we actually went to see it in the theater! We were going to try to rent a kid so we didn't look so geeky, but that didn't pan out.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I have to agree with you. I passed on this due to all the hype surrounding it but took the chance to watch it on Satellite last weekend. I had a hard time keeping my attention on it and walked away thinking 'meh'.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Oooh...controversial review.

I appreciate the more sophisticated Pixar movies that have come down the pike these days. And I have to say I loved this one. It pleased the broad comedy fan in me and the foodie in me. I wasn't thrown by the marionette parts of the film. If you buy a talking/cooking rat, why not the other stuff?

I haven't seen this one yet with my kids. I don't think they'd be into yet. But I find Ratatouille to be a better and more watchable film than the current favorite in my house "Cars."

Watch Ratatouille said...

Excellent movie. This is a movie filled with animation, creativity, cheesy plot that delivers a message. I highly recommend this movie and can say this movie is pure Brilliance.

Documnetary Films said...

The movie is great and if you will look it in other way it is true..Everyone can cook.

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