2007: Brad Bird
Rated G – 110 minutes
Vault Rating: 8
When my son dragged me off to the cineplex the opening weekend of “Ratatouille,” I felt like every other parent who’s ever been dragged before the Disney/ Pixar altar. I hoped for the best and expected little more than an inoffensive film with a great look.
There is no way I was prepared for what actually happened. The audience, self included, applauded politely during the credits. It was as if the grown-ups there were expressing appreciation for not being subjected to the same crap again.
It isn’t fair to say Disney/Pixar films never get it right. This charmed marriage most often does get it right, but seldom do they hit the ball so squarely as they have in this warm-hearted fluff about a food loving mouse at large in the streets of Paris, France.
Further, and this has happened to me twice in recent months, the trailer for the film gave away none of the film’s charms. Having seen the trailers ad nauseam, I was aware the film was coming out but did not care. I had been set up.
To digress, the other recent film trailer which practically mislead audiences was for the new on video “Bridge to Terabithia.” The trailer led one to believe you were walking into another one of those overblown fantasy stories with trolls and whatnot. What you actually got (along with some fantasy elements) was a delightful coming of age story, one of the best “tween” movies ever made.
Back on topic, the story at hand is that of a rat, Remy, whose gift is for cooking and of a world renowned chef’s protege, Linguini, who cannot butter bread. The unlikely pair team up in an inventive symbiosis that is obvious for some pretty easy laughs. What makes “Ratatouille” a better picture is that there are some equally honest laughs that do not qualify as low-hanging fruit. Some moments are perfectly timed bits of slapstick. Sometimes the humor just surfaces from a nicely written, patient and humane script.
The antagonists here are two and they are threatening in a comical way that is a Disney hallmark. First is a head chef named Skinner who is in line to take over Chef Gusteau’s food empire. Second is a soulless critic (Ah! Aren’t we all?) named Anton Ego (miraculously voiced here by Peter O’Toole) who has placed the popular Gusteau in the class of Chef Boy-R-Dee.
And there are, of course, the personal struggles of both protagonists that flesh out the film and make it nice and fat; something that could not be said for misbegotten animations like “Cars” or “Robots” or the more recently putrid “Shrek the Third.”
While “Ratatouille” does not approach the artisanship or imaginative beauty of the films of Hayao Miyazake, it is still a perfectly good movie to take your kid to. It is not junk food for your kid’s head, but a nice movie you might be relieved to see for yourself.
Another plus, before we fade away like a long list of credits, is that Disney/Pixar has continued in the noble vein of cutting out the crappy commercials before its films and instead offering a new cartoon short. This one is an alien misadventure called “Lifted.”
Cartoon shorts prior to a feature length film are really needed today. We live in a world that is sometimes so loveless, that the further adventures of a modern day Bugs Bunny (I think the Shrek characters, for instance, who have plainly run their course in feature films, might best be turned into a Warner Brothers-esqe short franchise.) would salve the wounds caused by a generation of Coke commercials.
You’re welcome! And so are your comments. You can drop a line to the vault at firstname.lastname@example.org” and I’ll run your picks and pans in the regular vault mail column. Also, I’ve got some good news from our favorite local film maker, Levi Abrino, whose short film, “Cannonball,” filmed in our area in the summer of 2005. Long story short, I’ve got copies of the film to distribute to local video stores as a “free” rental and we’ll be setting up the details in the coming week or so. More on that next time. And until the return of Carl Barks … Enjoy!