#5 – The Comedy
Pixar, ostensibly, makes comedies. While there are certain dramatic elements to all of their films, or in the case of the Incredibles an action/adventure setting, comedy is perhaps the most consistent elements in all of the studio’s work. It is therefore a compliment of sorts when I say that Ratatouille is perhaps the studio’s funniest film yet on so many different levels that I don’t even know where to begin. Once I get started, however, it will be the #5 Reason you should see ‘Ratatouille’.
What makes Ratatouille’s comedy so special is that it doesn’t owe its laughs to pop culture. It harkens back to an era where animation was funny because of wacky characters and smart physical comedy. Steamboat Willie may have had sound, sure, but it still drew most of its inspiration from the Charlie Chaplin films which came before it. Silent film and animation went hand for hand, in a way; exaggerated physical movements were necessary to get the message across. That concept went through until the point where it seemed comedy became referential, no longer relying on the same physical principles.
With Ratatouille those principles come flying back, especially in one scene with more ragdoll physics than…a video game with a lot of ragdoll physics. Physical comedy, silent comedy, is readily apparent here. There is an entire sequence where Remy and Linguini work out the kinks in their plan that is entirely lacking in dialogue and instead uses props, lighting, camera work and animation to deliver a hilarious montage of events. And yet, the film still has the traditional Pixar comedy found in smart characters, smart writing, and some stuff that’s just plain funny. In the film’s climax brilliant editing makes the laughs come fast and hard, and for adults and kids alike.
And that’s the rub: this kind of physical comedy is just plain funny. You don’t need to “get it”, you don’t need to consider it, you don’t need someone to explain it to you. While the film’s storyline and heart resonate more than perhaps any other Pixar film, the comedy is there to move things along. You will exit this film remembering how great the comedy was, yes, but it won’t be the centerpiece. The story, this crazy tale of a cooking rat, takes center stage, and the comedy serves to progress the story even through a slow-ish second act. And that’s why the comedy is Reason #5 you should see ‘Ratatouille’.