'Ratatouille' Review: Definitely Not "Rat Patootie"
Friday, June 20, 2008
Writer and director Brad Bird is magical. He appeared as though from nowhere one day in the late ‘90s with a little film called The Iron Giant. On the outside the movie appeared to be merely another non-Disney animated feature which would be okay fluff for the little ones but ultimately forgettable. No one seemed to give the trailers for the film any thought, and as expected the movie breezed through theaters without much fanfare.
Except for those of us who actually watched The Iron Giant. What we got was not only an excellently entertaining story, with humor and action someone of any age could enjoy, but a tale filled with honest emotion and true heart. Brad Bird waved his magic wand and produced similar results with the fantastic The Incredibles in 2005, followed in 2007 by the subject of this review, Ratatouille.
Despite being a film by Disney and Pixar, the trailers for Ratatouille at first seemed just as deceptively uninspiring as those for The Iron Giant. The tale of a rat obsessed with creating French cuisine didn’t seem like it would draw in the kiddie crowds -- how many foodies do you know under the age of 12? Even though Pixar has a track record of producing wonderful family films, I was skeptical of this one until I saw the following words: written and directed by Brad Bird.
The story revolves around the aforementioned rat, Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), who discovers while watching French television and experimenting with ingredients in the home of the old woman under which Remy’s rat colony lives that he is unlike other rats -- he must only eat the best food. When separated from his rat family, Remy finds himself in Paris, a whole city filled with the best food. There he meets Linguini (Lou Romano), a garbage boy at a fine dining establishment who accidentally ruins a chef’s soup -- only to be saved from punishment when Remy fixes it for him. Despite the fact that they can only communicate by mime, Remy and Linguini forge a partnership that allows Remy to cook at one of the finest restaurants in Paris while Linguini takes all the credit. As expected with a rat hiding inside a kitchen, shenanigans ensue.
The story is unusual and yet Bird seems to thrive in this oddity. While there are laughs aplenty and much fun action throughout Ratatouille, most of the story revolves around Remy’s absolute adoration of food. How this is reflected on screen is with plate upon plate of CGI rendered food that left me salivating as well as some inventive scenes showing what Remy feels when he tastes amazing food combinations. Throw in relatable family drama for Remy, romance for Linguini, and a devious restaurant owner with cash on the brain, and you have the recipe for one incredibly interesting story.
What makes this a great movie and not just merely a good one is Bird’s ability to bring it home. What I mean by that is that, as a lover of storytelling, I watch movies and read books with the hopes that all the various story threads being lain out throughout a film or novel will come together in the end in a way that’s so unexpected and so utterly perfect that my brain sparks with wonder. The older I get, the less I experience that feeling, and when a movie hits that chord I can’t help but be enthralled.
Ratatouille does that. Without giving too much away, there is a scene at the end that comes almost out of left field but which almost completely encapsulates every theme of this deceptively simple movie. With that amazing ending, Brad Bird once again casts his spell of wonderment and leaves behind a movie that sticks in your brain and brings a smile to your face.
As one character says in the movie, ratatouille may sound unappetizing with a name so reminiscent of “rat patootie.” I can assure you, this Ratatouille is anything but.
- BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Photo courtesy of Disney)