A film title that’s hard to pronounce. A massive legacy to live up to in the Pixar brand name. Rats as the main characters. A very troubled production. It goes without saying that Ratatouille had a lot against it when the film premiered over the summer. And while it did great business, raking in over $200 million domestically, many believed it fell short of expectations. Coming from a troubled production, this movie rose up to become the best reviewed film of the year, and it deserves every bit of praise received. Ratatouille is not only a fun movie, but it’s an engaging and heartwarming tale, all set in the city of love.
The film’s protagonist is a rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt) who dares to dream the impossible dream of becoming a gourmet chef in a five-star French restaurant. Undeterred by the obvious problem of trying to make it in the world’s most rodent-phobic profession, not to mention his family’s urgings to be satisfied with the usual trash-heap lifestyle, Remy’s fantasies are filled with flambés and sautés. When circumstances literally drop Remy into the Parisian restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), Remy finds the one thing he needs, a friend to believe in him: the restaurant’s shy, outcast garbage boy named Linguini (Lou Romano). Remy and inguini form the most improbable partnership that will turn Paris upside down, leading them both on an incredible journey of comical twists, emotional turns and the most unlikely of triumphs, which they could never have imagined without each other.
Director Brad Bird, of The Incredibles and The Iron Giant fame, creates a great film, captivating from start to finish. While the film may not reach the emotional depths of The Iron Giant or keep you on the edge of your seat like The Incredibles, it has a charm all it’s own, all thanks to the simple, yet inspiring, plot. Yes, the plot is really out there, a rat wanting to be a top chef, but he manages to sprinkle enough of that Pixar magic on it to make it not only believable, but somewhat inspiring.
What I like about Bird is his ability to go the extra mile in his work. Even here we see it, whether it’s the brilliant commercials, some hilarious sight gags, some off-the-cuff comments, etc., this movie is laced with them. There’s one moment that’s a true Brad Bird moment. As rats scurry through a roof, we peer into a hole to see two lovers fighting, the girl holding a gun to the man opposite her. He bellows, “You don’t have the guts!” Then, as the hole goes off screen you hear the gunshot. As the rats continue their journey, we come across another hole and see the exact same couple passionately kissing. It’s the type of gag you would never see in cartoons today, and how it made it into Ratatouille I’ll never know how, but I’m glad to see it in there. It’s a moment that’s guaranteed to get a laugh from even the most cynical person. There are more gags like that which are decidedly adult, but I’m also surprised at how adult-themed some of the more important plot aspects are, something that I’m glad to see Bird reintroduce into a mainstream animation market where cartoons usually appear watered down.
One of my favorite touches in the film is the visual representation of how food tastes. We see swirls of color and motion, each unique, each representing a different taste. It truly helps you understand Remy’s passion for food. It’s a brilliant, almost retro approach to the idea, and comes across as a great touch to a film already peppered with great character and scene touches. I could go on and on about this film and all the little things I like about it, but I’ll spare you. All I can say is that there’s a reason this is the best reviewed film of the year, and you should really give Ratatouille a spin.
If there is anything that works against the film, it’s like how inaccessible it could be for children. It’s a leisurely-paced movie, and one that’s quite different that the child-focused animated films that usually get pumped out into the theaters. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I can understand why kids would have a hard time sitting through it. Regardless of that, I still found it to be a great movie, one that adults can fully appreciate. Add on brilliant directing and a pitch-perfect cast, and you have, in my opinion, a great film that’s suitable for all ages. It’s a fun movie, a movie that’s a love letter to cooking and reaching your dream. It’s also the direct opposite of what a summer blockbuster usually is. It’s quite, character-driven, and intimate, as opposed to the loud blockbusters that we see rocking theaters every year. Thankfully, it’s also very enjoyable.
So, is the DVD just as solid as the movie? Sadly . . . no. The audio and video is top notch, don’t get me wrong, but the extras seem a bit light. I smell a double-dip coming in the next year or two, which is disappointing. The DVD itself seems more geared at adults than children. First up is a selection of deleting scene totaling fifteen minutes. There’s also a new animated short, “Your Friend the Rat,” providing a brief history of the rats told via 2-D animation. Quite stunning, I’ll admit. After that we get a cool featurette on cooking and the similarities to filmmaking. Rounding up the disc is the hilarious short film “Lifted,” seen in theatres before Ratatouille, some easter eggs, and the usual trailers. The disc is housed in an Amaray case featuring a cardboard slipcase and a handful of inserts. Overall, light on extras, despite some interesting content.
Despite being light on extras, this DVD is impossible to pass up. The stirring and brilliant feature was a bright spot this summer, Ratatouille will hopefully strike a similar chord on DVD. Coming Highly Recommended, Ratatouille is a film that is suitable for all-ages, but will likely find a soft spot among the older crowd. It’s a decidedly different animated film, one that will likely stand out as the years pass, and will likely be recognized as one of the strongest animated offering sin the past few years. It’s a superb story sprinkled with great character moments, hilarious gags, and spot-on character work. Much like a four-course meal, this movie will leave you utterly satisfied and content.
Rataouille hits DVD and Blu-Ray on November 6th, 2007.
Images from the DVD extra, “Your Friend the Rat.”
Check out Ratatouille, now available on Blu-Ray.