#2 – Patton Oswalt/”Remy”
I cannot say that I knew who Patton Oswalt was before he became the lead voice actor in Pixar’s Ratatouille. In fact, when people became somewhat excited when his voice emerged from Remy during the initial teaser trailer, I kind of just shrugged and didn’t bother investigating further. However, as hype behind the movie heated up I started to come to understand both who Patton Oswalt was and why Brad Bird had selected him for this part. And yet, despite knowing all of that, nothing could have prepared me for how awesome Patton Oswalt is in this film, and how he brings a sensibility to Remy that is charming and yet subversive. Combined with the work of the Pixar animators, Remy goes from being a blue rodent to a leading rat set to conquer the world in the hands of Patton Oswalt, and this character and its voice actor are Reason #2 You Should See Ratatouille.
I’ve talked about Owen Gleiberman ad nauseum, but his attack on Oswalt for not being enough of a celebrity ignores everything great that he brings to this character. Brad Bird has talked about how he felt that Patton brought a passion about things…through his rowdy comedy material. And that the passion of Oswalt, his ability to actually be obsessed with something and understand it without acting, per se, is what connects with Remy’s character. Remy is not just trying to be someone different by pursuing the culinary arts: he IS someone different.
So often voice actors are doing one of two things: either not even giving a performance, or trying to give too much of one. Oswalt, ideally, falls in between the two: his performance is natural without being too showy, but always feels cohesive and in-character with Remy’s actions. Remy is not, as you may be aware, a lewd comedian, and he never feels like it. Remy’s development as a character is entirely possible thanks to Oswalt’s work on this film. Whatever Bird saw in Oswalt, he was able to translate it into an animated world.
Because Remy, as a character, is the film’s foundation. Without a believable hero, I do not think this film could succeed on multiple levels. A lot of reviewers have been noting how it’s somewhat weird to think about such a realistic looking rat as anything but vermin. Now, since I’ve lived in the suburbs all my life I don’t have such bile towards rats, but all of those reviewers have noted that he charms you in spite of that fact. Remy is someone you root for, and that’s kind of miraculous.
And without the work of Patton Oswalt, I don’t think it would have been possible. He’s not wacky, he’s not boring, and he’s not overly serious; he’s just right. While a lot of Remy’s acting is silent and physical (And extremely well animated), if the voice did not match that character the entire film would fall off the rails. The film’s quality speaks for itself in many ways, but Patton Oswalt’s voice and the character it created speaks perhaps most of all. And it is Reason #2 You Should See ‘Ratatouille’.