Saturday, June 16, 2007

Review: Ratatouille

I had the good fortune of being able to see Brad Bird's "Ratatouille" this evening and I must say I haven't enjoyed myself at a movie like this in a long time. After the drought of greatness from the multi-plexes this summer movie season, Ratatouille is that rare mid-summer masterpiece that refreshes you and takes your breath away with laughter and joy at the same time.

I don't even know how to begin to tell you all how good this movie is.

Let's start with Brad Bird.

The man is a bloody genius.

I don't want to sound like I'm hero-worshipping the guy or anything, but let's face it: the guy knows his shit. He served as a consultant on some of the most prolific and best episodes of Simpsons (the ones we all steal one-liners from), he directed the "Iron Giant" which stands up against some of the best films of 1999, then he followed all of that with what is arguably one of the best super-hero pictures ever made... (It was "The Incredibles" for those of you struggling to keep up.)

Now, I'm not saying "Ratatouille" is better than these films. I'm saying "Ratatouille" stands up to them and gives them a run for their money.

The story is both simple and original and that puts it a cut above most of the crap in Hollywood that seems to be neither. I would have never guessed that a movie about cooking, let alone a rat cooking, could be so warm, interesting and fun. Granted, it seemed like once you got into the story there was only one direction it could go, but once you got there you felt so good about how you got there, it didn't matter that parts of it seemed predictable. But these are minor problems and I hesitate to even call them problems, because I didn't really find any flaws with this film. And I was quite surprised and refreshed to see how much gun-play and drinking went on in this film. It's nice not to sugar-coat stuff for kids like Disney seems to be notorious for.

Moving on: I never know how to gush properly about animation. It seems like such a cheesy thing to gush over, but when it's this good you feel like you have to. The character business the animators pulled off was meticulous and really fun to watch. The way the characters moved and emoted was so life-like but cartoon-y at the same time that you just so easily sucked into the world. For example: There's a moment when Skinner is trying to get Linguini drunk and he's trying to be sinister and turn in his chair, but he's too short to have put the right amount of strength into it so he has to take himself out of that moment and spin himself back to the right place and he looks annoyed by having to do it. The fact that I got like four different emotions and ideas out of the character in that one small moment that lasted one or two seconds is a testament to the level of care the animators seem to take with each frame.

And you could tell that every frame of this film was a labor of love.

And to complement each character was a voice that matched to perfection. I couldn't imagine Patton Oswalt being a better choice for the lead and I could never imagine that sentence ever being uttered. Ian Holm I barely recognized because who threw so much life into his character. Peter O'Toole was still Peter O'Toole, but that's just another way of saying it was good. Janeane Garofalo was another surprise (Was that really Janeane Garofalo?).

And the other great thing about this film, among so many great things, is that it might get kids to start thinking about what it is they're putting in their mouths. You don't want to eat garbage, but that's what most people eat now-a-days. It's good to see corn-dogs and microwave burritos and Col. Sanders relegated to what that sort of food should be: a joke.

What I want to know is this: What happened to animation? Why can't it be more consistently like this? Adults wouldn't be so wary to go see cartoons if cartoons were consistently this good. Pixar has raised the bar on animated story-telling and they don't soften things to make it "just for kids."

You'd be a fool not to see this picture. And if this movie doesn't make more money than crap like Pirates of the Caribbean, I will truly lose my faith in the American public more than I already have.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to pay my $8 ($16 with a date) on this. I loved the 9 minute trailer on

Stenar said...

I look forward to seeing it, especially after such a rave review.