Rats Make Delicious Food: The Movie

by

BLARRRGH!!!

Like I need to say anything about how great Pixar is. Arguably (who’d argue?) the only American animators left who still treat the medium with a modicum of respect, their latest, Ratatouille, may be their best, a big deal since their past catalog is mostly gold.


What blew me away about Ratatouille, besides the gorgeous animation, is the marvelous way the story is structured. The main character, Remy, is a rat who loves the finest food. When he winds up in Paris he befriends a struggling restaurant worker, Linguini, and together they become the biggest chef(s) in France since Remy’s idol, Chef Gusteau passed away. Pretty simple. But how does Remy wind up in Paris? What about Remy’s rat family? Who’s Linguini and what’s his deal? How do they communicate? What are the other restaurant workers like? What about the ghoulish restaurant critic, Anton Ego, voiced superfluously well by Peter O’Toole?

The movie acknowledges and examines every possibility a story about a rat who cooks food could foster. Huge (big!) congratulations are in order for Brad Bird and his team for taking the time to cultivate and nurture a story so rich and charming instead of taking the quick easy route so many of their competitors take. They don’t oversimplify anything, or overcomplicate. In my Ultimate Hellsing article I point out anime’s tendency to treat their audiences like ADD-rattled blockheads, telling (and telling and telling) instead of showing. Well, the rats talk, but the humans don’t understand them. They can’t speak through words! The way Remy and Linguini interact and grow to know one another is such a clever, simple visual accomplishment. It’s pure fantasy, but it works and it’s hilarious. Look for the Weekend at Bernie’s gag.

phew~

The voicework is fabulous all around. I don’t think I ever liked Janeane Garofalo in anything so her unrecognizable turn as hot and bothered Colette, Linguini’s co-chef, was a nice surprise. Anyone knew she could be so French? Ian Holm also masks his refined Britishness, turning in a gruff, maniacal performance as a pint-sized chef jealous of Linguini and Remy’s skills. Brad Garrett, who most will know as the sunken-eyed brother in Everyone Loves Raymond – I remember him as Lobo in the DC animated universe – plays Remy’s idol, Gusteau. Despite his death in the beginning Remy manifests him into a Jiminy Crickett-esque conscience, offering optimistic advice when Remy’s down.

These performances are outstanding because they’re actual performances. They don’t sound like Robin Williams or Zach Braff, just phoning some bullshit in. Peter O’Toole doesn’t do anything drastically French as the others though he still takes the cake as the critic Anton Ego. He delivers a climactic monologue near the end so sublime it’s worth the price of admission alone. He could read the ingredients on a tube of toothpaste and still garner a nod and a tear. Pure magic. Will Arnett, Gob of Arrested Development, er, fame is also somewhere in the movie according to IMDB but, blast it, I couldn’t tell who he was. Still, Will Arnett’s in the movie!

excuse me wtf r u doin?

Brad Bird and J.J. Abrams mainstay Michael Giacchino, a Grump Factory favorite, makes beautiful French jazz music. Which means no pop bullshit! I know, I know, I bitch and bitch but it needs mentioning. The music’s fantastic, particularly a bouncy song that plays twice in the film, that I’d get the soundtrack for. It’s sweeter than candy.

There are a few scenes that got me thinking too. Like, “what the heck does that mean?” type of stuff. The one that sticks out most in my mind is an interlude between Remy and his father, who hates humans. Rat Dad takes Remy to someplace to show him a pretty disturbing sight, a demonstration of mankind’s violent nature. It’s completely unexpected and would have shattered the tone of the rest of movie but it fits, somehow, and I don’t exactly know why or what it means. Interesting stuff to stick in a “kid’s movie.”

Which it isn’t really. Pixar movies are about adults. They just happen to feature bugs, cars, toys and superheroes. And rats. Ratatouille is prooooobably the best movie of 2007, so far, so there’s really no excuse to miss it. Be sure to stick around during the credits for some spiffy 2D animation.

Gawrsh. {:3

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6 Responses to “Rats Make Delicious Food: The Movie”

  1. Brian B Says:

    Indeed. This was a fantastic movie and I also loved how Remi and Linginue never talked to each other (I loved how Remi was called “little chef” throughout the movie). The animation was great, the animals were cute and I agree that the monologue in the end is something so worth listening to I was almost moved to tears by it!

  2. johnmora Says:

    I need to seeeee thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis~~

  3. josh Says:

    I really want to see this.

  4. Sean/Shard Says:

    My impression of the “disturbing scene” was that it was there to give weight to the father’s character. It wasn’t just that he didn’t understand his son’s love of food. He had real responsibilities that he took very seriously, and it was his way of showing Remy that he cared about him, making Remy realize what he was really risking for the pursuit of his dream. I thought it was important in that it showed Remy’s fleeing sequences weren’t Tom & Jerry style nothing lost/nothing gained hijinks, that he was mortal and could lose everything.

    All throughout the tale there was a subtext of actions having consequences that had to be addressed: Linguini’s origin, Remy’s pursuit of his dream and how much of himself (or his family) he may have to sacrifice, Colette’s issues with trust, etc.

  5. Ronald Says:

    Posted pix on http://cornichon.org of the “disturbing scene” real life inspiration…a shop in Paris that specializes in pest control.

  6. johnmora Says:

    I saw it Sunday and even though everybody brought their infant children and thought it was perfectly okay to tromp their strollers up and down the stairs, I had a fun time. The problem I have with calling this “PIXAR’s best film to date!” is that it always gets said. Is it always true? Up until now, maybe (let’s forget Cars. Please). But although I was extremely happy with Ratatouille, is it really BETTER than Incredibles? It’s certainly prettier, although I haven’t been able to go back and rewatch Incredibles to truly back up these statements like I wanted to.

    Another criticism I have is that there’s so many predictable elements. Yeah, of course Colette’s gonna warm up to Linguini. Of course Linguini’s gonna end up being someone special. Of course he and Remy will learn a lesson or two about humility and responsibility. I mean, it was a fine story, but not really surprising, you know? I almost feel upset at myself for criticizing it, but there you go. Maybe one or two Eastern European paraplegic faeries would’ve spiced things up.

    And yet another I have is the inconsistent use of accents. Every Frenchman in the movie is given a French (sometimes incomprehensibly French) accent… except for Linguini, whom the audience will be spending the most time with. I’m torn between finding this too convenient and out of place, and just taking it for the concession of coherence for the sake of clarity that it is. And why weren’t the rats French? Why was Remy’s dad a Jew?

    Also, I can’t believe you didn’t mention the rats’ noses. They’re hilarious/awesome/distracting nipple-noses, especially Remy’s dad’s.

    The music was superb, I agree. Giacchino seems to be hit or miss. His scores for Incredibles, Alias and M:I III were forgettable, but LOST and Ratatouille have staying power with me. Maybe because there were a few parts in Ratatouille where you could tell he wanted to just rip into the LOST theme. And Camille did a very good job singing the peppy French number in the movie. Whoever she is. Definitely gonna have this on my list of soundtracks to pick up. :3

    And those CREDITS! PIXAR, quit dicking around and just get into 2D animation, too. TV or movies could need your sweet touch. x3~~~

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