Ratatouille

RatatouilleExpectations for the newest Pixar-Disney picture Ratatouille may not come as clearly as marketing monsters like Toy Story or Cars. Audiences of all ages will definitely find a worthy film feast on all levels, plus an alien-themed short before the feature called Lifted. Pixar’s eighth computer animated feature film succeeds in every element for 1 hour and 50 minutes. The biggest success is involving the audience so much that they forget it’s a computer-animated film.

Comedian and voice talent expert Patton Oswalt (King of Queens, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D  television series) voices the protagonist Remy, a rat with a highly developed sense of taste/smell. Remy’s talents have some practical uses but he yearns to use those talents to create and expand his palette of food cuisine. Filmmakers imaginatively capture Remy’s delicacy discoveries when he combines foods like he’s conducting science experiments, often with his brother, Emile.

Remy summarizes Emile, voiced by artist and newly appointed voice actor Peter Sohn, as someone who “doesn’t understand me, but I can talk to him.” Remy even pleads with Emile to not walk on his front paws so he can fully taste the food he’s eating instead of the ground. Veteran actor Brian Dennehy (Ultimate Gift) provides the voice for Remy’s protective father, Django, who finds Remy’s taste for food changing. The rat colony’s “it isn’t stealing if no one wants it” theme gets tested by Remy’s “a cook makes, a thief takes” mantra.

Eventually, Remy makes that all-important human connection with a garbage boy trying to find himself at a famous restaurant. This young man, named Linguini, is voiced by Pixar voice talent veteran Lou Romano. This new team finds new challenges as Linguini really lets all the accidental fame go to his “head” while Remy becomes torn between two parts of himself.

Like Paul Newman in Cars, this Pixar pic uses an extraordinary veteran actor for one of the key roles. Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia) voices food critic Anton Ego who’s ready to bring the lucky Linguini down for “playing without an opponent”. “You provide the food, I provide the perspective,” says a vain Anton during his review of the restaurant.

An experienced comedian and intelligent comedienne also bring some great surprises (and accents) to the table. Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond television series) voices the famous chef Gusteau who believes “a great artist can come from anywhere.” Filmmakers creatively use Gusteau to advise Remy with gems like “if you focus on what’s behind, you’ll never see what lies ahead.” Janeane Garofalo (Reality Bites) voices the tough cook Colette who mentors Linguini as his chef status quickly rises. “Your sleeves look like you threw up on them! Keep them clean,” she says.

An almost unrecognizable Sir Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings, The Fifth Element) voices the antagonistic head chef Skinner who uses Gusteau’s name for selfish gains. Linguini threatens Skinner’s plans without even trying. “He acts like an idiot, but he knows something…he’s toying with me like a cat with ball of …,” says Skinner. “I refuse to be sucked into his little game.” Predictably, Skinner does get sucked into it, providing some nice comedy including a running gag about rat sightings.

Director/screenwriter Brad Bird incorporates the same television clip method at the beginning of The Incredibles for essential background introductions. Bird provides some amazing visual entrees like the awesome crawl space shots, point-of-view shots from the floor, a quick watery trip in the sewer and a nice circular shot around a stew pot. Bird recruits another Incredibles crew veteran for the fantastic musical score composed by Michael Giacchino (Lost and Alias television series).

The film’s climax seems to come at the hour and a half mark, but filmmakers add even more ingredients to this palatable plot by bringing some touching drama and Anton Ego into the forefront. After the satisfying ending including a hilarious kitchen climax, filmmakers have even peeled away some of these ingredients as the main characters remain after conquering their respective conflicts. One of the most sophisticated and entertaining animated films ever. Highly recommended and rated G.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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