I can’t say I’ve been overly impressed by Disney and Pixar’s recent outings. While I was blown away and absolutely love The Incredibles, I didn’t care much for Cars. When Ratatouille was revealed I wasn’t all the interested either but I quickly became aware of it by the outpour of reviews for the film, calling it fantastic and one of Pixar’s best. My interest in the film rose and by the time the DVD was ready to release I was extremely eager to see it. After all, if the man behind The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, two of my favorite animated movies, was in charge of the film I knew it had to be worth seeing.
Remy (Patton Oswalt) loves to cook. His idol, Chef Gusteau, wrote a book that said that anyone could cook if they had the desire. After being forced to separate from his family and getting lost until he arrived in Paris, Remy landed himself a job in the late Gusteau’s restaurant, which, since its creators death, had lost two of its five stars. Determined to get the stars back and convince the critique, Anton Ego, that his restaurant is worthy of. The only problem in all of this, of course, is that Remy isn’t a real chef. In fact, he’s not a human. Remy is…well, he’s a rat.
Obviously the big twist to the film is that it revolves around a rat wanting to be a gourmet chef. It’s a cute twist and one that works in the context of the film but I realized about half an hour into a film I didn’t think it could fully sustain itself on that plot along in the near two-hour run time. By the end of the film I realized that while I enjoyed watching it, it lacked one thing that other Disney and Pixar films are known for: the characters.
Of all of the characters only the evil chef, Skinner, really had any real character development. Linguini and Colette are cookie-cutter characters and even Remy, who we get to know in the opening frames of the film, gets pushed by the wayside for Linguini’s character who doesn’t really grow past wanting to become a chef with a rat in his hat.
Again, it’s not like I didn’t enjoy the film; like all Pixar films it’s a wonderful piece of animation I just don’t feel that it was really up to par with their past efforts. I am genuinely surprised by the outpouring of love for the film, both by critics and fans of Disney/Pixar. It is generic in every way and really doesn’t ever tug at the heart strings or make one really want to see the conclusion of the film. It meanders, scene by scene, with no real purpose. I’ve seen kids get bored twenty minutes into a cartoon that was light years more entertaining than this was; how any child could find this film enthralling in the least is a mystery to me.
The structure to the film, as stated above, is really blasé. We go from one sequence to another with Remy running away or towards something with the ginormous world above him nearly killing him at every turn he makes. I swear there were three to four of these sequences and aside from showing off the absolutely astonishing and gorgeous animation the film contains, they really seemed to only be there to wake the audience up in between the story building sequences.
The big pay off in the end of the film is seeing Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole) go back to a childhood memory upon eating the ratatouille dish that Remy makes for him. His ensuing voice over is worth watching the entire film for and it’s really a nice cap to a fair film. As I said before the characters of the film that stood out most to me were the villains. There was nothing special about our heroes at all and their only purpose seemed to move us through the story. I will say that the voice cast for the film did their job quite well, however; they were definitely a treat to hear. I was surprised that Will Arnett voiced the mysterious cook “Horst”—it sounded nothing like him. I had to go back and give it another listen, simply because I’m a fan of his work from Arrested Development.
Between the excellent animation (I’m consistently amazed by how real water looks in animation now—the sewer sequence with Remy was especially jaw-dropping) and the wonderful score by Michael Giacchino, the film is certainly delightful to see and hear. Perhaps my disappointment comes not in the film itself, but in that it was a Brad Bird film. In the end, I’m more upset that I didn’t absolutely love it than I was with the film itself; it’s a fine effort by the folks at Pixar but it is definitely my least favorite of their films thus far.
Despite all of this, even on Pixar’s worst day they easily trump and humiliate other CGI efforts that studios are putting out nowadays, so it’s not without surprise that Ratatouille comes Recommended.
Arriving on DVD with an embossed slip cover, Ratatouille will definitely garner attention on the shelf. The cover, one of the better DVD-specific covers I’ve seen for a film, really stands out and looks great. Inside we get fair amount of inserts for Disney promotions as well as one focusing on the movie itself. Disc art matches the cover art and menus are nicely laid out and easy to navigate—not surprising due to the real lack of extras here.
The film looks absolutely astonishing. The CGI is some of the best I’ve seen to date and the 5.1 surround mix makes ample use of the surrounds on more than one occasion. Peter O’Toole’s superb narration at the end sounds brilliant and the technical aspect of this release is probably one of the more delightful things about it.
Unfortunately we don’t get too much in the form of extras; the excellent Pixar short “Lifted” is of course included, as well as a new short made for this DVD (“Your Friend the Rat”). Despite this we really don’t get too much else and the featurette here are sadly too brief and focus very little on the film itself. The featurette in question, “Fine Food and Film: A Conversation with Brad Bird and Thomas Keller”, is really just a “this is how my job is” overview from Bird and Keller. Bird, being the director of the film and Keller being the head chef at a restaurant, draw parallels with one another’s careers and how they are both nurturing new talent in their field. There is very little behind-the-scenes information given here and while the extra is entertaining, it really tells you jack squat about the production process for the film.
Deleted scenes are included, most of which are in animatic/storyboard form. The deleted scenes include intros by Brad Bird about why they were cut and his feelings toward the film. This is as much as we get to hear from him on his thoughts about the film, however, as there is no commentary for the film. These single-disc Pixar release of late are really quite disappointing on the extras front; as much as I hate double-dips, there has to be more behind-the-scenes content than what Disney’s gave us on here and on the Cars DVD.
The new short, “Your Friend the Rat” is quite entertaining to watch and is done in the classic Disney animation style, intercut with historical footage and the CGI characters from the film. It’s a fun little history of rats and their journey across the world and seeing some new 2D animation done in the retro style was a real treat to see. It can’t exactly make upf or the complete lack of commentary or real worthwhile extras on the set, but regardless it’s a fun watch.
Oddly enough I didn’t see any games for children, which makes this an all the more curious DVD. For the “Best Reviewed Film of the Year” (as quoted on the boxes slipcover), there sure isn’t much here to show us about how such a film was made.
Overall, this is a fair effort from Disney and Pixar and a ho-hum DVD. Still, even with my disappointment in the film, it is worth seeing and like the film this DVD comes Recommended.
Ratatouille is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.