Pixar is and always will be the master of modern animation, and they prove this yet again with Ratatouille, an imaginative, warm and lusciously animated film.
Ratatouille (pronounced rat-a-too-ee for all you non-french speakers) is directed by Brad Bird and stars Patton Oswalt as Remy, a rat with an acute sense of smell and a dream to become a chef. He gets an opportunity to achieve this dream when he runs into the dorky Linguini (Lou Romano) in the restaurant of his late idol Gusteau (Brad Garret). Its an imaginative and inventive premise, which is basically a Pixar hallmark. Not only that, but the story is also very well told through several strong emotional beats and believable character moments which gives the unique premise the chance to shine. It all cumulates in a near perfect ending – subtle, touching and truly heart-warming, you’ll definitely want to see Remy’s journey to its very end.
Speaking of Remy, Patton Oswalt does an excellent job of bringing the ambitious rat to life. While a little jarring at the beginning due to his voice being so distinctive, it doesn’t take long for him to embody that character and by the end you completely forget its a human voicing him. While Remy is good, unfortunately the films most serious flaw is the supporting cast. Romano does a perfectly solid job voicing Linguini, but the character itself isn’t anything particularly interesting or unique. He’s just a dork. A loveable dork sure, but nothing original. The same can be said for the primary villain of the film, Gusteau’s second in command Chef Skinner. He’s pretty shallow – only greedy for the sake of being greedy – and doesn’t contribute much to the effectiveness of the story. Its a shame because there’s an opportunity for a wonderful subplot regarding his relationship with the deceased Gusteau but sadly its barely touched on. Other than those two however, the rest of the cast is good. Janeane Garofalo does a great job of making Linguini’s arbitrary love interest Collette more than a love interest. She’s hard but still friendly, and she’s a proper part of the plot rather than being delegated to an annoying romantic subplot.
Now to my favourite character in the entire film. Anton Igo. The snobbish food critic. Everything to the writing of the character, to the voice, to the design of him is incredible. He oozes gravitas and menace, without simply being an obstacle to overcome. Not only does he have a fascinating arch, he is the main reason the ending of the film works so well and elevates what could have been a standard happy ending to something much more profound. This may be an animated film about a cooking rat, but it has plenty to say on the nature of criticism and accepting new talent which are really surprising and intelligent commentaries to make, considering what film they come from.
The animation also is spot on, as always with Pixar. Its often very fast and kinetic, yet still easy to follow, and each character has a good clear design and authentic expressions. The colour palette too is also very interesting. Most of the film is contrasted between the warm oranges of the kitchen to the deep blues of France, with several landscape shots that blend the two extremes to make Paris look dazzling. Pixar’s animation is so good its almost unfair.
So Ratatouille may be bogged down by several underdeveloped characters, but there’s so much good stuff in here that it barely matters. Everything from Patton Oswalt to the animation to the concept to the ending to Anton freaking Igo works so well and proves yet again that Pixar is the deserving king of contemporary animation.
General Audiences: Must-Watch
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended