There are animated films, and then there are Pixar animated films, and Ratatouille returns the brand name to the excellence we expect. It is no secret that I hated Cars with a passion - I hated the concept, the previews and the movie - and thus the illustrious shine had come off the Pixar logo. But even the best of companies have their stumbles, and Ratatouille is one of their best movies to date.
The movie is about a rat named Remy, who lives in France and who, unlike the rest of his family, appreciates fine food. After making his way to Paris, Remy winds up in the kitchen of a once-five star restaurant that has since fallen from glory after the death of its founder. Now ruled by a tyrannical and money-hungry midget-chef, the restaurant has seen better days. Enter Linguini, an American idiot who just wants a job. Remy and Linguini proceed to form an unlikely alliance, as Remy is a master chef and Linguini is, well, human.
Ratatouille is the animated version of Sideways: smart, funny and well done. It thrives on good food and excellent wine, and the animators have captured that mood so well that I was craving gourmet food within minutes. It is clear that director Brad Bird and his whole crew did a lot of research to deliver a film such as this, an animated movie that transcends the genre by delivering a real story, interesting characters and a knack for detail. Unlike Cars, which was pretty basic and aimed more toward younger children, Ratatouille strives to be a quality film, and not just a funny one. And that has generally been the difference between Pixar films and all of the other animated movies that dilute the market; whereas most animated movies are about gags pieced together by silly stories, Pixar movies focus on the story first and the jokes second.
Ratatouille is not your laugh-out-loud comedy, but it builds itself upon a quality plot, well written dialogue and fun characters. There are a good amount of laughs, and even when things aren't funny they're entertaining. Little kids may not quite understand everything or fidget in a few parts, but there is plenty of visual stimulus going on to satisfy them. The visual effects are simply outstanding, as everything on screen is incredibly detailed and quite realistic. If you think all animated films look the same, compare Pixar films to the rest and see just how much more vibrant Pixar films can be.
While Ratatouille is an excellent film, I wouldn't say it is Pixar's best in terms of an overall package. There are some slow parts, and the ending feels a bit rushed. More importantly, the movie just isn't as funny as some of Pixar's other films, namely the Toy Story movies. Ratatouille is great, but Pixar knowledgeably chose to make a more sincere picture rather than a purely funny one, and that costs them a little entertaining value. It's no big deal, as I'd recommend this film to everyone of all ages; Ratatouille ranks among the best of Pixar's, just below the Toy Story movies and The Incredibles.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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