In Short: I believe that Ratatouille is perhaps the best example of a purely Pixar film since Toy Story. It is a film that engrosses itself in its setting, its characters, its universe more than any of their films in between. It has most of The Incredibles’ fantastic qualities (I want to marry Michael Giacchino right now), but does so within a more traditionally Pixar story…and that combination is hard to beat.
10. The Story
What makes Ratatouille so special is that its story covers so many bases without feeling overstuffed: Remy’s storyline deals with identity and finding one’s passion, Linguini has to learn to grow a backbone, and the commercialization of good food even gets its nose into the picture. While the themes and settings of the story are perhaps Pixar’s most unique yet, the heart at their centre is classic Pixar.
Now, this was technically just Wall-E in my initial piece, but I had to make a change to fit something in below. What the Wall-E teaser trailer and short film ‘Lifted’ bring to Ratatouille is a sense of both the future of Pixar and the value that Pixar brings to their films. For adults, seeing that Wall-E trailer gives you a glimpse at the conceptually unique film Pixar has coming next year. And, for kids and adults, Lifted is a comic gem that will get you ready for the main course.
8. The Music
I said a lot of positive things about Michael Giacchino’s work on this film, and reviewers are coming in with the same feelings. From the Chicago Tribune:
To “Ratatouille” Giacchino contributes the most delightful musical score of the year. His delicate, nimble flute theme for Remy (like Jean-Pierre Rampal on uppers) captures the hectic pace of a rat’s life, and there’s a genuinely rhapsodic swell of feeling in the way the orchestral music augments the rooftop view from Linguini’s tiny apartment, as seen through the eyes of Remy.
From unknowns to legendary film stars, what Ratatouille perhaps does best is maintain a sense of character within its, well, characters. These are not celebrities voicing people and rats, but instead people who are becoming these characters and giving them depth and interesting developments. Peter O’Toole is especially fantastic.
This film is as much of a love letter to Paris as it is to food itself. With breathtaking beauty, Pixar has created a stunning vista that stretches for miles which portrays Paris as a beautiful city; however, they go further. The sidestreets and alleyways are full of life, imagination, colour, and when Remy travels through this city there is a sense of discovery and wonder unseen in even previous Pixar films.
5. The Comedy
Some critics are claiming that this film isn’t funny, and I think they need to get in touch with people who know what comedy is. Comedy doesn’t have to be puns, or fart jokes, or even verbal. The comedy within Ratatouille is sly for adults, physical for the kids, and fast-paced even when the dialogue is not. While the film is not a laugh riot, with great precision it milks laughs out at key points to serve its story.
4. The Food
Buy snacks when you go to see Ratatouille, and make them as gourmet as possible. Your stomach will start rumbling watching this movie, and the preparation that went into this food is rather stunning. I’m pretty sure that Pixar’s animators will view cooking as easy compared to cooking it up on computers.
3. The Critical Moral
This is a change from my initial list, but I wish to change this for a reason: as more negative reviews (not unjustly) come in, my first fears have come true. The film has a moral message delivered by food critic Anton Ego that challenges the current state of criticism, and some reviewers are getting all uppity about it. I think they should watch the movie again and reconsider, but that moral is well-stated, brilliantly read by Peter O’Toole, and something to make you think after leaving the theatre. I won’t spoil it, per se, but I think it makes a strong coda for the film and is certainly a reason for adults to see this film.
A lovable rat? It doesn’t seem possible, but Patton Oswalt gives Remy just enough rat-like qualities while creating an insanely likable lead character. You can’t possibly not root for Remy in this story, and Oswalt’s passion for all things food bleeds through his shiny blue fur to create an intriguing mix of rodent and chef extraordinaire.
And, without further adieu, the #1 Reason to see Ratatouille is…
1. Brad Bird
There is not enough space within ten reasons to address all of the amazing technical animation work, the wonderful layouts and backgrounds, the glorious sound effects and all of that other stuff. So, as we usually do, we like to attribute a film’s quality to its director, the person in charge of the project. Doing so for Ratatouille feels almost more natural: Brad Bird (The one on the left, for the unaware) is a fantastic director (“The Iron Giant”, “The Incredibles”) and this is a fantastic film. However, Brad Bird deserves simultaneously only partial credit for conceiving this film, and entire credit for getting it into the shape it is in now. And that struggle, without a doubt, makes the work of Brad Bird (All of it) the #1 reason to see ‘Ratatouille’.
Brad Bird was not the original writer or director of Ratatouille: that task with to Jan Pinkava, a veteran Pixar shorts director. He conceived the film, designed the characters, built the sets, and from that derived a story and presented it to the good people heading Pixar. And, well, he hit a roadblock: they didn’t like it. They felt the story was out of joint, not meshing with the rest of the film, and they wanted this film to be perfect. So, with deadlines looming, the decision was made to pull Brad Bird out of vacation and thrust him into the director’s chair.
On one hand, this was a rough break: Pinkava has departed from Pixar on, shall we say, not the best terms, and sometimes the film shows how rushed it really was. However, like Bird himself says, he thrives under pressure: as a consultant on The Simpsons, he knows how to work on a schedule and make a great product in the process. And he manages to create a fantastic screenplay in which these characters and sets can exist. Whether it is madcap action, physical comedy or heartfelt messages, Brad Bird has taken various parts and brought them together into something cohesive and engaging.
And thus, considering the hail mary pass that Pixar asked him to achieve in only two years, Brad Bird is the reason to see Ratatouille. His vision for this film brings it its story, its comedy, its voice performances, its setting, its energy, its vibe, its heart. Without him, this film might have been shelved entirely, and its fantastic parts delivered by Jan Pinkava sitting in a vault somewhere unused. Instead, Brad Bird has brought them to life in a way that is his very own. It has his trademark style of combining moral lessons with a heartfelt story, and yet throwing it all in together with madcap hijinx and clever set pieces. But, he never loses sight of these characters and the world Pinkava helped create. To be able to take someone else’s material and treat it as your very own in terms of attention to detail is a very difficult thing to do, but Brad Bird stepped up to the plate.
And he might well step up to the stage in February at the Oscars. And he would damn well deserve it, too. Because his work on this film makes it what it is, and he is (as a result) the #1 reason to go see Ratatouille when it opens on June 29th.