Ratatouille is a real treat, and not just because it’s about a rat that can cook. One of the things that director Brad Bird and the Pixar team continue to deliver time and time again with their great animated films is a strong story, loveable characters, and above all else, an attention to detail. Aside from engrossing us in an endearing, funny, and touching story, every nuance and detail put in to that story, characters and in particular the images is nothing short of astounding. This isn’t a cartoon; much like the Shrek films, Ratatouille has a level of detail in the images that far outweighs a lot of live action efforts. But at the end of the day, this is a film about a loveable rat with an ambition to cook and with his dumb human friend they go about doing just that!
Remy is a different kind of rat; he has the ability to smell ingredients in the garbage. This leads him one day to saving his clan of rats by detecting rat poison in the garbage that they almost eat. Immediately, Remy’s father makes him the official poison tester for his clan of rats, a role he doesn’t really relish. He long to eat food the way it should be eaten; in a clean, sterile environment with the freshest ingredients possible. One day he decides to venture outside his dwelling and into the house of an old woman who watches a television show based on the famous French chef Gusteau and from which he draws inspiration. But while throwing around ingredients, Remy and his brother Emilie get caught out by the old woman who, in one of the most hilarious scenes you’ll ever see, pulls out a shot gun and starts blasting her house apart in an attempt to kill both rats. This eventually leads to the entire rat hive being exposed inside the roof of the house and they are all forced to escape. In a spectacular sequence, Remy is separated from his clan by surging water in the sewer, and is unknowningly swept off to Paris. Once there, he watches a dumb garbage boy Linguini inside Gusteau’s restaurant making a mess of some soup and decides to intervene. Linguini catches him, but manages to hide him from everyone else. Thanks to Remy, the soup turns out to be fabulous, with Linguini taking the credit. Together, they decide to help each other out and go from one mishap to another to eventually becoming the toast of France.
The characters are at the heart of this seemingly implausible scenario and they really make the film work. Remy is a warm, humorous, intelligent and ambitious rat who wants to break out beyond the boundaries that are being imposed on him from the outside world. He wants to be a chef! Linguini is particularly funny as the clumsy oaf with no idea but recognises Remy’s special talent. All of the other characters are especially good ranging from the nasty master chef Skinner (voiced by Ian Holm) to Collette (voiced by Janeane Garofolo). Peter O’Toole voices the evil food critic Anton Ego with the right kind of vile treachery. The character is also well drawn, looking like the specter of death himself, particularly when his reviews are known to cause the death of any restaurant business. But it turns out Remy can stem the tide, and impress the unimpressible critic, and in so doing, establish his own restaurant with Linguini and Ego as the principal investor.
One really smart move by the filmmakers was to make Remy and Linguini unable to communicate verbally. Instead, they devise a scheme where Remy puppet-masters Linguini by pulling on his hair. This sets up some fabulous physical comedy and some hilarious moments where Linguini is trying to act all natural when in fact he’s not controlling anything. He exclaims at one point, “that was surprisingly involuntary!”
The images of very lifelike and vivid for a totally fabricated computer generated environment. It appears obvious that real stills from Paris were superimposed in to the pictures, particularly the big wide vistas that both Remy and Linguini enjoy on a regular basis. The animal characters are likewise spectacular to watch, particularly Remy who has obviously had an incredible amount of work and detail put into him. The humans don’t fare as well, but that’s probably because we’re so familiar with how a human should look and sound like. But this doesn’t take away from the pure visual spectacle that this film is.
Ratatouille is an excellent film; kids will love it, but it’s a film that everyone will enjoy.
For the complete, original DVD review, click this link: http://www.allaboutmovies.net/dvdreviewratatouille.htm
Alex DeMattia is the lead DVD reviewer at the film/DVD review web site All About Movies.net. He also contributes reviews and articles for the Digicosm Film Blog: http://www.filmannex.com/Digicosm