Disney has been going through a rough couple of years in terms of their animation studios. With their recent acquisition of PIXAR Studios and their return to 2-D animation though, things seem to be looking up, that is if their latest film Ratatouille does well in theaters. While PIXAR always puts out quality films, and Ratatouille is no exception, it isn’t the best of the best.
Ratatouille is about a little rat with big dreams. Remy, voiced by Patton Oswalt, has a highly developed sense of taste and smell. He instantly becomes addicted to food and the possibilities that come from cooking, and it also helps that he has a mentor in the form of world renowned chef Auguste Gusteau (voiced by Brad Garrett). His father Django (Brian Dennehy) thinks Remy is becoming too human and uses his son’s talents to sniff out poisonous food until one day when Remy gets caught in a little old lady’s house. The family is split up and Remy ends up in Paris, at Gusteau’s restaurant. When Remy finds out Gusteau is dead and his once great establishment is in ruins he decides to stick around and forms an alliance with a lowly garbage boy named Linguini (voiced by Lou Romano). As Linguini starts to rise through the ranks with Remy’s help the two learn a couple of harsh lessons in finding out who you are and the meaning of family.
There is a ton to love about Ratatouille. While it probably isn’t up to par with other PIXAR films like Monsters Inc. or Finding Nemo, it is classic PIXAR and a film you will want to watch with your kids more than once. The message in the film is one that a lot of families can relate to, and even a couple teenagers and young adults who are trying to find their place in the world. The humor in the film is also able to go to every age, there’s physical humor for the kids and a lot of subtle humor for adults. The film never tries to pander to the masses, it doesn’t assume that children are stupid and need simple gags, and it doesn’t resort to innuendo to get to adults, something that a lot of recent animated films try to do. The animation is hands down one of the greatest elements of any and all of the PIXAR films and Ratatouille doesn’t disappoint. The simple things in life, like a puddle, can be beautiful when put in a PIXAR movie. The food is depicted as simply exquisite in the film, you want to eat virtually everything and wonder why food can’t look that good in reality. The way the rats are depicted is also great, when Remy and his friends get wet; the attention to detail and coloring is breathtaking. It’s also fun to see how the director and all tried to make all of Remy’s motivations logical, even the reason they give for him walking on two legs seems to be plausible. I have to give a lot of credit for my enjoyment of Ratatouille to director Brad Bird. I’ve loved Bird’s work since The Iron Giant and Ratatouille was simply Bird in everything, major props to him.
I did have a couple issues with Ratatouille and in hindsight they didn’t limit my enjoyment of the film, they just lessened it a bit. The film tends to drag considerably in the middle. When the film gets overly sentimental or focuses too much on Linguini’s rise to fame and/or when the film stops to smell the roses it does bring the film to a grinding halt. I wasn’t looking at my watch constantly but I did wish it was wrapped up a little quicker. The second major gripe will probably happen in theaters across the nation and that was the little children. While I understand this is a kid’s movie my theater had incredibly loud children making comments throughout the entire film, and they weren’t too happy to see the short film before the actual movie. If you’re an adult who wants quiet during the movie I would say go early in the morning or late in the evening, afternoon shows might be a bit overfilled with rambunctious kids.
The voice work in the film is what really brings Ratatouille to another level in terms of humor and heart. Comedian Patton Oswalt was stand-out as the voice of Remy, I really couldn’t see anybody else voicing the role. The animation matches Oswalt’s voice to a “T” and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. I also loved Lou Romano as the voice of Linguini, he has that everyman voice and his character reflects that. Peter O’Toole is also great as the food critic Anton Ego. When you see his reaction to eating at the end it’s nothing short of hilarious. I did enjoy Janeane Garofalo’s voice work as Collette, she was a hilarious female chef, I just felt her romance with Linguini felt a bit forced and did kind of take me out of the film a couple times.
I absolutely loved Ratatouille, flaws and all, and believe it is a classic example of what PIXAR can do. While I feel Disney can do better on its own and am looking forward to their return to 2-D with Enchanted, Ratatouille is a great diversion and a return to form for both studios.