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Overall Rating
4.62

Awesome75.58%
Worth A Look: 13.95%
Just Average: 8.14%
Pretty Crappy: 1.16%
Sucks: 1.16%

8 reviews, 38 user ratings



Ratatouille
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Mmmmmm. . .Pixar!"
5 stars

From time to time, even the most successful people in Hollywood have to undergo some kind of public misstep and with the release of last summer’s “Cars,” it was Pixar’s turn. The difference between their stumble and the ones taking by so many others over the years was that theirs was less about money–the film did make zillions of dollars, first at the box-office and later on home video–than about the quality of the work. Simply put, the film lacked the ingenuity, charm and heart that made such previous efforts as “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles” and the “Toy Story” films such instant classics with younger and older audiences alike–it played more like one of the innumerable knock-offs that have come down the pike over the years from people who looked at those earlier films and assumed that all you needed to make a hit was fancy CGI animation and a bevy of celebrities lending the voices to the characters. While the results weren’t that bad–it was better than most of those aforementioned knock-offs–it did show that the seemingly infallible studio was as vulnerable to a creative dry spell as anyone else in the industry.

What remained to be seen, however, is how the studio would respond to this hiccup with their next effort–would they be able to regain the magic of their previous films or would they just begin turning out the same kind of soulless pap as virtually every other animation department is doing these days. Within the first few minutes of their latest effort, “Ratatouille,” you can tell that Pixar is once again firing on all cylinders and as it progresses, it just gets better and better. This is a film as fast-paced, hilarious, exciting and unexpectedly touching as anything they have ever produced and while it may not have the instant narrative hook that drew people to “Toy Story” or “Finding Nemo,” it gives us a story and characters that are so intriguing and well-developed that they put most adult-oriented films in release today to shame.

Our hero is Remy (Patton Oswalt), a budding Parisian gourmet stuck in a fast-food world. While his father (Brian Dennehy) and brother (Peter Sohn) are content to simply shovel garbage into their maws on the theory that food is nothing more than fuel, Remy loves nothing more than to use his heightened senses of taste and smell to bring together different flavors into new and delightful combinations. After discovering the existence of the late, great master chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett doing his best Gerard Depardieu)–a culinary genius with the all-inclusive credo that “anyone can cook”–Remy decides that it is his dream in life to become a world-class chef himself. There is only one slight problem with Remy’s dream–the inescapable fact that he is, in fact, a rat and his mere presence in the kitchen of even the lowest-class restaurant would be disastrous for both him and the restaurant.

Eventually, Remy is separated from his family and, after a spin through the sewers of Paris, winds up outside Gusteau’s namesake restaurant. Alas, it turns out to be once-proud establishment that has spun into mediocrity after his death and is now being run by Skinner (Ian Holm), a by-the-numbers hack who is more interested in using Gusteau’s good name to hawk crappy frozen foods than in providing diners with the kind of culinary glories that gave him that good name in the first place. While staring longingly through the window at the hustle and bustle in the kitchen, Remy is appalled to discover clumsy busboy Linguini (Lou Romano) trying his hand at cooking by rendering the soup all but indigestible. Unable to stop himself and unbeknownst to anyone but Linguini, Remy fixes the soup and it becomes an immediate hit with the diners and earns Linguini a place on the cooking staff. Of course, Linguini doesn’t know the first thing about cooking but once he and Remy figure out a way of bridging the communication gap–this is not one of those films where animals talk and humans understand them–they work out a system in which Remy will create in the kitchen and Linguini will take the credit for those creations.

For a while, all goes swimmingly–Gusteau’s is revitalized, Remy is finally able to put his love of cooking to good use and Linguini, now hailed as the hot new chef in town and in love with fellow cook Colette (Janeane Garofalo doing her best French gamine), winds up taking over the restaurant from Skinner after an old secret is revealed. Alas, this is the part of the film where everything begins to go downhill. For starters, Remy’s family turns up and implores him to return home with them instead of trying to live among humans just at the time when Linguini begins to let his unearned success go to his head by starting to take Remy for granted. As for Skinner, he discovers that Remy is the real cook and plots to kidnap him as part of a plan to start a new frozen food concern. If that weren’t enough, the imperious food critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole doing his best Peter O’Toole)–a longtime foe of Gusteau and his “anyone can cook” philosophy–announces that he will return to the restaurant for the first time in years to see what all the hype is about. To say any more about what transpires wouldn’t be fair, but I will say that this may be the only summer blockbuster that whips up a climax that somehow manages to juggles a kitchen full of rats, tearful reconciliations, breathless slapstick and an exquisite (and exquisitely funny) homage to Marcel Proust.

“Ratatouille” was written and directed by Brad Bird, the man responsible for such gems as “The Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles,” and the film reconfirms his position as one of the best American filmmakers–animated or otherwise–at work today. For starters, it is a delight from start to finish from a visual standpoint. In his previous works, Bird has always favored the kind of sleek and highly stylized look that gives the material a strikingly retro feel and “Ratatouille” is no exception–this is one of those movies that you’ll want to get on DVD just so you can freeze-frame a random scene and savor all the beautiful little details on display. Intriguingly, many of the scenes take place at night or in semi-darkness, an effect that adds a subtle bit of atmosphere to the proceedings that you don’t often find in most animated films. And while this is not a film that relies on slam-bang action sequences to keep the attention of the audience, Bird is such a skilled filmmaker that when the time comes for such a sequence–such as the opening chase involving Remy’s family being pursued by a shotgun-wielding granny and Remy’s first roller-coaster ride through the kitchen of Gusteau’s–he pulls it off with such precision and grace that he puts the jumbo set-pieces of “Spider-Man 3" and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” to shame.

Of course, pulling off visual astonishments is nothing new for Pixar–ever since “Toy Story,” they have been consistently pushing the envelope as to what can be done within the confines of an animated film. What separates “Ratatouille”–and, by extension, the best Pixar films–is the way that they effortlessly come up with storylines that are equally affecting for younger and older audiences. The kids, of course, will love all of the knock-about humor but as the story progresses and Remy demonstrates his love for fine cuisine and the effort that goes into making it, they may find themselves picking up on the implicit message that one doesn’t have to be satisfied with stuff aimed at the lowest-common-denominator–be it food or entertainment–if they take the time to cultivate a taste for something better. This is beautifully underlined in a monologue delivered by the food critic in which he explains why he does what he does, why he constantly hopes for others to live up to a higher standard instead of simply offering up the same old crap and why he continues to do it for a living even while knowing full well that most people are perfectly satisfied with that same old crap. It is such an unexpected moment–especially since you are convinced that the character is going to be made into a buffoon as revenge for all the bad reviews that “Cars” received–that it takes a while for it to sink in but once it does, it will stick in the mind for days. In fact, the next time someone asks me why it is that I do what I do for a living, I will simply point them in the direction of that scene and let it do the talking.

The greatest aspect of “Ratatouille,” however, is the fact that in a season chock-full of pre-sold sequels and spinoffs, here is a film, one ostensibly made for kids, that actually demonstrates some ambition. It contains such a strange combination of elements–a rat as the central character, an unabashed affection for all things French and a voice cast that appears to have been cast for their talents and not, as is the case with most animated films these days, by how famous they are–that it would seem nothing more than a recipe for disaster. And yet, just like the character at its center, it mixes those ingredients together with equal parts skill and joy and the resulting film is one of the most thoroughly satisfying feasts you are likely to encounter at the multiplex this summer.

One final note. During its theatrical run, screenings of “Ratatouille” are being preceded by a showing of Pixar’s newest short film, Gary Rydstrom’s Oscar-nominated “Lifted.” Though I cannot tell you anything about the short itself–to even briefly describe it would be to kill some of the jokes–I implore you to make sure that you get to the theater in plenty of time to make sure that you get to see it as well because it is just as much of a charmer as the feature that follows it. If “Ratatouille” is a sumptuous feast of filmmaking, “”Lifted” is the perfect appetizer to get you into the mood.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15533&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/29/07 09:14:58
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User Comments

1/05/15 Mario is the Best Not as good as most of Pixar's other movies. 3 stars
9/10/12 marta gilson I can watch this over and over and over 5 stars
10/18/11 Magic Essentially perfect in every way. Lighting, script, cinematography, character design, yeah. 5 stars
3/30/11 TG A truly enjoyable family film. Will make you want cheese. 5 stars
10/23/09 Alex71 A routine is established for rest and play. , 5 stars
10/22/09 Alex41 Democratic Party candidates as a partisan publication. , 4 stars
10/15/09 Billy cute 1 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. if you're on a diet, don't watch this. :P 4 stars
9/07/08 Carol Durbin I absolutely love this movie and watch it often with my son. Awesome!!! 5 stars
8/14/08 Shaun Wallner My daughter loves this movie! 5 stars
5/14/08 PAUL SHORTT COMBINING VIVID CHARACTERS WITH A FRESH STORY. THIS IS ONE OF PIXAR'S BEST FILMS YET 5 stars
3/04/08 Matt Raises the bar and stands out as the best animated film ever. Remy's the man! 5 stars
2/09/08 pixie dust More quality animation from the curent masters, a cute gem 4 stars
12/28/07 David Cohen The first Pixar movie that did not make me laugh once 2 stars
11/08/07 Charles Tatum Strong, but long, Pixar 4 stars
10/23/07 William Goss First Pixar film to appeal to the soul rather than the heart, and it works. Kudos, O'Toole. 4 stars
10/21/07 katsat There is so much to love about this film. A masterpiece! 5 stars
9/30/07 Jason great movie! 5 stars
9/01/07 Mindyh This movie has everything a great animated film has. 5 stars
8/12/07 katsat Amazing on so many different levels - my favorite Pixar film ever. 5 stars
7/20/07 Pokejedservo What can I say? This is another great Pixar film... 5 stars
7/14/07 Jason it was a really great funny movie 5 stars
7/10/07 Tiffany Losco my daughter loved this movie. So cute, and funny 5 stars
7/08/07 critic's critic This review is more about you showing off than about the movie. 5 stars
7/07/07 Russ Gladchenko An excellent movie for the everyone. I've enjoyed almost every Pixar movie made to date. 5 stars
7/06/07 AnnieG Excellent film - seems to be more for adults than kids. 5 stars
7/05/07 Mike J Best film from the best film studio out there 5 stars
7/05/07 Crispin My 6 yr old daughter and I both loved it. My humorless wife merely enjoyed it. 5 stars
7/04/07 stepalone Magnificient 5 stars
7/03/07 PamE Terrific film. Pixar does it again Way to go Patton Oswalt 5 stars
7/02/07 laura bennett loved it..... 4 stars
7/01/07 Mr X Another Pixar blockbuster, nuff said. 5 stars
7/01/07 BritishKnights Bird's story was written and finished before Cars was released, do your research! 5 stars
6/30/07 Dark Enchantress the best disney-pixar movie ever! I loved it! 5 stars
6/30/07 Sano Pixar has cooked up a charming treat of a movie! 5 stars
6/30/07 Faimen At the end of the film, my son turned to me and asked "Can we buy this?" Says it all. 5 stars
6/30/07 Ole Man Bourbon Easily one of the best films this decade. 5 stars
6/29/07 Quigley Amazingly delicious Pixar film. These guys make the best movies these days, hands-down 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Jun-2007 (G)
  DVD: 06-Nov-2007

UK
  N/A

Australia
  06-Sep-2007




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