Brad Bird, Jim Capobianco, Jan Pinkava, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg
Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O’Toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Will Arnett, Julius Callahan, James Remar, John Ratzenberger
You might think that a film about the culinary arts and the passion of a cook would be inaccessible. Ratatouille would prove you wrong.
We’re introduced to the young Remy, ably voiced by sidekick comic Patton Oswalt, as he attempts to search out the finest cuisine from a small French cottage where grandma has a shotgun. He wants to live above his station, that of a common rat. His father Django (Brian Dennehy) thinks him picky and fanciful, wishing he’d just accept what he has and like it.
However, as these kinds of stories go, the heart of a young rodent cannot be swayed by the seemingly sensible philosophies of a thieving society. Remy rebels and finds himself separated unwillingly from his family in the sewers of Paris. With the help of his conscience, embodied by the late famed French chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett) who believes that “Anyone Can Cook”, Remy finds his way into the heart of Gusteau’s old restaurant where his bravery nearly gets him drowned.
When he befriends the hapless Linguini (Lou Romano), a human janitor with dreams of being a chef himself, the two begin a sensationally comedic duo trying to make a name for themselves.
Pixar is everything Walt Disney animation wants to be. For that reason, Disney made a killer deal to acquire the firm and bring them under their umbrella. Thankfully, Pixar’s management team stayed in place. While we’ll have to wait for Wall-E and Pixar’s subsequent films to know how much of a creative impact Disney’s head honchos will have over the new division, we are left with the sumptuous feast that is Ratatouille.
Ratatouille marks director Brad Bird’s second full length computer animated pic for Pixar and he has more than proven himself. The Incredibles was great fun and quite possibly one of the best super hero films yet made, but Ratatouille is even better. Second only to Toy Story 2 in Pixar’s eight-film catalogue, Ratatouille plays far differently than its preview would suggest.
Walt Disney Company was having a hard time trying to figure out how to market the film and while their marketing wasn’t completely successful, the word of mouth will easily spread because there’s not much this G-rated film could have done to improve itself.
As a friend pointed out, the one thing Pixar has done better than any other animation house is voice casting. They don’t go for the over-the-top comedian or the box office draw; they choose the right voices for their characters. Their lead characters are very rarely major celebrities (Oswalt, Owen Wilson, Craig T. Nelson, Albert Brooks and Dave Foley). Here we hear the near perfection of voice casting: Oswalt, Ian Holm as the maniacal marketing chef Skinner, Janeane Garofalo as the vicious chef Colette and the divine Peter O’Toole as food critic Anton Ego. Even the relative unknowns in the cast Lou Romano (Linguini) and Peter Sohn (Remy’s brother Emile) provide great characterization.
The other amazing aspect of the film is its beautiful animation. The background scenes of Paris are absolutely breathtaking in their beauty and realism. If it weren’t for the computer animated characters, you might just think you were watching a film actually shot in Paris. The character animations are even interesting with the humans among the best yet created for an animated feature.
As the film plays on, you’re firmly grounded in reality. You don’t expect more than you receive and when the end finally arrives, you’re neither disappointed, nor incredibly excited. However, the happy-enough ever after denouement is more satisfying the more you think about it.
July 7, 2007