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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pixargust: Ratatouille (2007)

Okay, so all of you should know by now that my favorite Pixar movie is Finding Nemo. But if I had to pick a runner-up that had a clear three-act structure, is not part of a franchise, and has everything such as imagination, heart, and memorable characters that Pixar is now infamous for, it would have to be Ratatouille. Why? Because it's as close to perfection as you can imagine. The story: humble, but engaging. The characters: identifiable. The musical score by Michael Giacchino: perfect. The animation: Flawless. The best since Finding Nemo. As expected it was a big success when it came out, making over $620 million worldwide, opened with universal critical acclaim, and was even nominated for five Academy Awards, but only won one. Not a bad run at all. This was the first Pixar movie that I never got to see in the theaters. I wanted to, but never got the chance. My father knew this and felt bad about it so as soon as the DVD came out, we went to our Target, bought it, and watched it together. We both liked it, but I think it left a bigger impact on me personally. Watching it again, I may have figured out why. Join me as we sink our teeth to a true five-star film: Ratatouille.

We see our main character is Remy (Patton Oswalt) who lives in rural France and dreams of being a gourmet chef in the finest restaurants in Paris. One problem: he's a rat. And rats aren't welcome with people's food. Turns out Remy has a very strong sense of smell and taste, which enables him to smell out fresh food from garbage, even rat poison. Once his clan figures this out, Remy becomes the official "food-checker" to see if anything is tainted. But once he's free, he ventures in the kitchen of an old woman to experiment with cooking by watching his idol Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garret), author of the best-seller Anyone Can Cook, on television. But his cover is blown and the clan has to leave with the rest of his clan. Remy is separated from them and winds up in the sewers with a copy of Gusteau's book. He begins to see Gusteau's image come to life and becomes his "spirit mentor" throughout the movie. He finds out he's been underneath Paris the whole time and finds Gusteaus's old restaurant: once five stars, now three due to his death and a review by notorious food critic Anton Ego (Peter O' Toole). Remy gets a peek inside the kitchen but finds a new garbage boy named Linguini (Lou Romano) spills the soup and poorly tries to recreate it. Remy falls in on accident and is tempted to fix the soup. He does but gets caught by Linguini. The sou chef Skinner (Ian Holm) orders Linguini to get rid of the rat, but he can't go through it. He finds out that Remy can understand him and he takes him home. The two try to work together to recreate the soup from the other night but it doesn't work with Remy biting him. So on accident, Remy discovers that by pulling his hair, he can strangely control Linguini's actions. This does work and they are able to not only recreate the soup but also make Gusteau's restaurant a hit again and Linguini forms a romance with a coworker named Collete (Janeane Garofalo). That is until Ego hears about this and vows to re-review the restaurant again. Now under immense pressure, the two also have a suspicious Skinner investigating what is Linguini's secret. Skinner finds out it's Remy that is the true chef and he catches him so he can use the rat to make a line of frozen foods for him. Remy is freed and Linguini reveals the truth to his staff only to have them walk out because they think he's crazy, even Collete. But Remy does succeed to impress Ego with his family's help with Linguini's and eventually Collete's help in making ratatouille. The next morning, Ego gives a positive review of Gusteau's but is shut down because Skinner ratted them out on a rat infestation. But Remy, Linguini, and Collete form a new hit bistro with Ego as a regular customer.

This film gets my vote as the most pleasant Pixar film to look at. Just the skyline of Paris blows me away and they capture the Romanticism and charm of the city beautifully. From what I hear, the animators had some trouble with making sure the food in this movie looked appetizing. Thankfully, it does. Frankly, it makes me hungry just watching it. I know it's animated, but I really want to reach for the screen and eat it myself. I just want to taste it.



Doesn't that look appetizing?
For 111 minutes, the film has a much, much better pace than Cars did. It's beautiful, and a tight, smart, wonderful script flows from this. The pacing of the story is odd and choppy at places, but this is a very forgivable grievance. It's the most layered, complex, and satisfying script from Pixar since The Incredibles. In fact, I live by a lot of these quotes. Here's a few to indulge in.

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Part of the reason I love this movie so much is because I can connect with the main character Remy. As an artist myself, I'm always looking for new ways to draw or design certain characters: both before my time and ones I create. Remy is more or less the same. He's always experimenting with flavors and ways of cooking his dishes. His family, though, is a little less appreciative of his talents. My father has always been supportive of me and my mother is slowly but surely warming up to the idea of me being an animator. Remy's father is constantly arguing with him about his life (as my mother did before) and his brother doesn't have the passion or drive that Remy does. This is just a rare character that I identify with 100%. In fact if anyone ever plans on entering a creative career, I suggest watching both this and Ed Wood, as both have valuable lessons for careers like this. Here, it's that even the humblest of origins can succeed, but in Ed Wood, there's always the chance it could bomb hardcore. But both show that the sky's the limit with your creativity and that you should pursue your dreams no matter what. That and the voice acting by Patton Oswalt is superb. Even though he's a famous comedian, I can hear Remy's character and not a celebrity doing a voice behind a microphone. Bottom line: I just adore this rat.

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The rest of the characters are entertaining. I like Emile's ignorance is bliss attitude, which has a comedic contrast with Remy. His father has some good scenes too. You feel the rocky relationship he has with Remy, but he's just trying to be a good parent. Collete was a scary, tough-nuts woman at first, but she gets much more pleasant as the film progresses. Skinner was a nice comedic villian who wants to market Gusteau's name. The scenes where he tries to expose Linguini and his reactions are especially funny. Guteau himself is a pleasant man, offering Remy sage advice through the rat's imagination. The rest of them play minimal parts, which is what A Bug's Life and Cars should have done. The only character I'm not a big fan of though is Linguini. We've seen the socially awkward guy before in other movies and there are points where he can be a little whiny. But I can tolerate him. At least he has some funny scenes with Remy and Skinner.

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Ratatouille is close to being perfect. With beautiful animation and settings, delicious looking food, a scrumptious complex script, voice acting, fantastic musical score by Michael Giacchino, and a character and message that touches me as an artist, it's no surprise why it's my second-favorite. The pace and a few of the humans, though, are what keep it from being my #1 pick. But those are only minor flaws and it's still an excellent film by all means. It's not just a film, it's a work of art. If you haven't seen it yet and happen to see this at your video store, do not pass it up! Just have something to snack on as you watch it.

1 comment:

joe c said...

It's probably one of my favorite films ever. If you're anything lik me and grew up in a loving home with good cooking, you'll lose it when the climactic scene with the ratatouille hits the screen.

Brad Bird came in after it started production (wasn't there a change in directors here too?) and made some substantial changes from what I hear. I wonder what it was like before then?