With dreams of becoming a chef, a culinary genius in the form of a rat, makes an unusual alliance with a young kitchen worker at a famed restaurant.
Year 1, Day 239
BEFORE: When it comes to Pixar films I’ve seen almost all of them. The three exceptions are Cars, Cars 2, and Ratatouille. Today that list goes down to two as I can finally cross Brad Bird’s second Pixar film (and second film in the marathon after The Iron Giant way back on day two) Ratatouille off the list. A lot of my inspiration for choosing this film is to narrow down the list but also because I’m a big fan of Bird’s work. After today I’ll only have the two least popular Pixar films remaining; ones which I’ll probably get around to eventually but am in no rush to watch.
AFTER: You may notice this review is a day late. I watched Ratatouille yesterday on Oscar Sunday but I just got too carried away in the festivities and finishing a film project that I wasn’t able to write this. But now that’s done and I have only my ethics midterm and a whole bunch of TV segments to edit before spring break starts on Friday.
But what did I think of the film? That’s why you’re all here right? Ratatouille is a masterful piece of filmmaking that has a fair share of action and excitement along with more intimate, character-driven moments focused on emotions. It quickly turns from, “Really, a story about a rat?” into, “Wow, this is a rat that has ambition and will do everything he can to achieve it”.
When the film started out I have to admit I was a bit taken aback. It begins with a voice over from the main character, Remy (Patton Oswalt), that explains who he is - a rat with an extraordinary sense of taste and intuition for cooking - and the current setting - his family (or clan) is living in an old lady’s house out in the countryside. It wasn’t a bad way to start the movie as the voice over accomplished a lot in a short period of time, but this is a case where a simple situational event to set the scene would be more effective. Nonetheless, it sets up the film in a way I tried to get at before: an interesting premise but with a lot of room to grow.
Once things start to pick up though, the film really gets moving. (I’ll just take this moment here to remark at how violent the humans are portrayed in this film. I understand wanting to kill the rats so they don’t affect your home, but shooting your house to pieces and chasing them down a river with a shotgun seems a bit excessive.) Soon after this opening scene you’re placed in Gusteau’s restaurant where the majority of the film takes place. This restaurant with it’s attention to detail, atmosphere, and overall importance to the message, makes it the heart of the film. More so than the characters, it’s the setting that is of utmost importance to the film. Gusteau’s provides a place for Remy, along with his puppet/partner Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano) and the rest of staff including Chef Skinner (Ian Holm) and Colette (Janeane Garofalo), to be themselves and for us to see them in their natural environment: a kitchen.
I left this film in a completely different way than I entered it. I was anticipating marking it under the good column mainly for the fact that it’s a Pixar film and it it directed by Brad Bird. Remy provided me with a source of inspiration, to always try to see the best in things even when it seems all bad and to always fight for what you want. And the way the story turned out, with all the conflicts and their resolutions, left me with a spring in my step - an overwhelming happiness. All of these separate pieces - the clan of rats, Skinner and his plans, Linguini climbing up the ranks, Gusteau’s reputation - combined in such a brilliant way that almost made up for all the bizarre parts and slow start. But there’s a line where something goes from deep and meaningful to just plain wacky. Ratatouille is just plain wacky. Wacky doesn’t mean bad, wacky is just a specific type of entertainment. The critical flaw for me is that it’s not fully embraced and there’s a slight disconnect between the light-hearted, comical side and the similarly light-hearted yet semi-serious side.
Ratatouille is still a great Pixar film and a great animated film in general; one that I’d recommend watching. Just be ready for some unexpected things.
RATING: 4 out of 5