RATATOUILLE sticks to the company’s winning formula of character and story-driven films, but with enough creative flourishes to dynamically set it apart from their previous filmography. Just from a visual standpoint, it’s their best work to date. The physical comedy with Remy controlling Linguini is hilarious, the scenery is gorgeous (that initial skyline shot of Paris at night…[splooge]), and the character work is amazing. When I went to Pixar last year, John Lasseter talked about how they were developing new methods of "squash and stretch" (making an object flexible without changing its volume), which gives the characters lifelike depth and movement more akin to traditional animation. While you might not have known the specific technical term, the difference in quality is apparent. Just look at a sequence like Remy’s first attempt to escape the kitchen; there’s a great balance between his realistic rat-like movements and a subtler sense of anthropomorphic feelings and reactions. That, along with other details such as seeing the rat’s heart beat through his chest, makes it an impressive achievement.
As good as it looks, the well-rounded characters and heart at the center of RATATOUILLE is what really sells the movie though, with some great character design and voice work across the board (except for Janeane Garofalo’s French accent). The film adheres to Pixar’s standard of hiring the right people for the role despite their A-list status, which is how you end up with a “big” name like Patton Oswalt and a Pixar employee like Lou Romano in equally large roles. As Remy, Oswalt brings the same excitement and passion he has in his standup comedy (but swapping food for comic books). Peter O’freakin’Toole is also fun in a small turn as the villainous critic and his speech on the profession hits home. And Ian Holm, Will Arnett and of course John Ratzenberger disappear in to supporting roles so well that I was surprised to see their names in the credits.
As someone slightly obsessed with the Food Network, the culinary representation in RATATOUILLE made me drool. The food here doesn’t just look realistic; it looks downright delicious. And like a good home cooked meal, RATATOUILLE is a delight and a feel-good pick-me-up of a movie. It may cater directly to all my sensibilities—good food, great story/presentation, and Pixar—but I’m sure it’s a film that everyone else will love just as much.
Your Friend, The Rat (11:20): An educational short film about the history of rats, as told by Remy and Emile. I dig the use of 2D stylized animation, and I’m all for making the Black Death fun for kids, but I’d much rather see a regular plot-driven story featuring these great characters.
Fine Foods and Film (13:57): A feature on director Brad Bird and chef Thomas Keller (who worked with Pixar on some of culinary aspects of the movie). The comparison between creating movies and meals is interesting, as is the brief discussion of their backgrounds and roads to success. With some behind the scenes footage thrown in, this is a different spin on your average Making Of featurette.
Deleted Scenes (15:06): Only three; including a fantastic single take shot through the restaurant and a scene from an earlier version of the film with a still-living Gusteau. With comments by Brad Bird and other crew.
Lifted (5:06): This short film, which played before RATATOUILLE in theaters, is hilarious. But did anybody else wonder what happened to the kid’s parents and other potential housemates in the end? Did they all die after being crushed to death? Is my overthinking ruining this for everyone?
Previews, including the great WALL-E teaser, and a few fun Easter Eggs.
Extra Tidbit: “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” Poignant and true, but apparently Brad Bird has never had to watch and review PHAT GIRLZ.