[Movie Review]Ratatouille a work of art from Disney
With endearing tales like “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo,” this is truly a Disney for the new generation.
These films, though they were about bugs and toy cowboys, confronted real human emotion, even suffering and trauma. Who can forget the chilling opening of “Finding Nemo,” where Marlin loses his wife and all but one of his children. They may be fish, but it was still a scene of murder, unsanitized, as scary as if it had been a human mother.
Given Pixar’s stellar record, when “Cars” came out last year in the wake of Pixar’s announced merger with the decrepit Disney, critics were looking for chinks in the armor. And we found them. Though good, “Cars” lacked the special spark that drove the studio’s early successes. Pixar was even passed over for the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar in favor of “Happy Feet.”
But Pixar’s latest effort, “Ratatouille” is a giant step forward.
Brad Bird, the creative mind behind “The Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles” cooks up this confidence-restoring brew from a truly odd recipe: A rural French rat with an unbearably good sense of smell called Remy (Patton Oswalt) can’t stand the garbage his family eats, and aspires to emulate the greatest chef in Paris, the deceased Gusteau (Brad Garrett), a bulbous good spirit who admonishes human food snobs that “anyone can cook.”
When a trip to the kitchen goes awry and the clan is forced to evacuate, Remy is separated from his father and ends up in the alley behind Gusteau’s restaurant, where he gets his first taste of haute cuisine.
Remy can’t resist fixing a soup that has been disastrously ruined by the garbage boy Linguini (Lou Romano), and an unusual partnership is formed.
Though Remy can understand Linguini, the rat can’t speak English, and after a lot of trial and error the two discover that Remy can manipulate Linguini’s body by pulling on different areas of his hair (perhaps it’s directly connected to the poor boy’s brain).
Pixar’s backgrounds are as painstakingly rendered and beautiful as they have ever been.
As Remy looks down over Paris for the first time, it’s a perfect transmission of that feeling of awe that floats like an aura above the city of love.
The sensation of taste is communicated through splashes and loops of color that recall “Fantasia” and reveal the limitations of the visual medium.
Though an interesting idea, Bird would have done just as well to stick with visual representations of the dishes themselves, which look positively delectable.
Linguini also happens to be Gusteau’s illegitimate son. A savage review by a notorious critic, Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) knocked his restaurant out of the top tier, and broke the old man’s heart.
Now the head chef (Ian Holm), named in Gusteau’s will, is using his name to hock lucrative TV dinners, and he’s terrified that the boy will make a claim on his inheritance.
Of course it all comes down to a final duel between Remy and Linguini and the stodgy old critic for the future of the Gusteau name. Ego is one of the most outrageous and memorable villains of all time.
Introduced in a room shaped like a coffin, his pale, thin visage parked behind a monstrous typewriter, this despicable antagonist is made more delicious by O’Toole’s performance, which savors negativity just as a genuine evil food critic might.
The score by Michael Giacchino is one of the most evocative and playful ever to accompany an animated film.
“Ratatouille” is such a feat that it deserves a place above Pixar’s other successes. Endearing, well acted characters that endure drama without being trite and generate sympathy without pandering are truly rare in today’s family movies.
Even rarer is the originality and care that went into crafting every facet of this film perfectly before its release.
In short, “Ratatouille” is Pixar’s masterpiece, its most admirable achievement, its greatest contribution so far to the history of the animated cartoon.
Animation / English
By Ben Applegate Contributing Writer [firstname.lastname@example.org]