Ratatouille

October 14, 2007

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That’s six animation classics- hell, six motion picture classics that Pixar have now made in twelve years. Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles and now Ratatouille. It’s the tale of Remy (voiced by US comic Patton Oswald), a rat with a passion for good food, rather than the garbage the rest of his colony collect. He yearns to cook, and regularly intrudes into the strictly off-limits kitchen of the rural house they live between the floors of. But one day after the owner wields a shotgun (and blows apart most of her house) Remy is separated from his family and washed through the sewers. Alone apart from the book “Anyone Can Cook” by revolutionary, departed chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), he finds his way up to the rooftops – and in Paris. This revealing shot, as the twinkling lights of the city appear, is the most beautiful, swooning, romantic moment of the year. Accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s magical score, it encapsulates perfectly just how breathtaking, clever and utterly delightful Ratatouille is. Ratatouille is written and directed by Brad Bird, the man who brought us The Incredibles. That was the film that, three years ago, had everyone saying it would confirm the end of Pixar’s reign, that it would flop and couldn’t possibly live up to the standards set by their previous output. Then the critics saw it: not only had it held its own amongst the aforementioned films, but positively surpassed them. Ratatouille consolidates the fact that Pixar are light years ahead of every other computer animation studio, and that Bird is a very talented man indeed.

All the usual Pixar ingredients are here: the smart, witty visuals and dialogue; the lightning-fast set pieces; the magnificent detail. Ratatouille has all of these in abundance, and so much more. The story is brilliant: once Remy finds himself in Paris, he stumbles upon Gusteau’s restaurant, losing respect and now run by volatile head chef Skinner (Ian Holm), clearly suffering from a severe case of Napoleon complex. Seeing that the clumsy, hopeless new cleaner Linguini (Lou Romano) is accidentally ruining the soup, Remy rescues it with his impeccable knowledge of food, and what makes it so good. Soon, Remy is helping Linguini prepare the best dishes in the capital, with the help of cook Colette (Janeane Garofalo).

This film works on so many levels there are several I probably still, after two viewings, haven’t discovered. Like The Incredibles, Ratatouille is probably even more enjoyable for adults than for children. There is so much to appreciate: the astounding attention to detail, so much so that it at times almost becomes sensory overload, creates a constant feast for the eyes. The colour palette is striking, yet subtle. Even the individual hairs on the rats are meticulous. And the characters are wonderful. There are some moments involving Remy where his face is more emotive than one could possibly expect, his expressions by turns funny, sweet and actually very moving. He may be a rat, but like all his rodent friends and family, he is completely endearing. Everyone gets a bowlful of good lines, especially Remy’s brother Emile, who contrary to Remy barely knows what he’s eating, let alone considers its taste. And the food critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole), whose previous review of Gusteau’s caused the depression and subsequent death of its catalyst and creator, has an amazing, brilliant monologue describing the role of a critic, one that will stay with me for as long as I live.

What an extraordinary film this is. An unequivocal joy from start to finish, its impossible not to love. It redefines what an animation film can do, and indicates just how much quality Pixar has, surely that will continue. It actually made me want to greatly improve my own culinary skills, more so than anything else ever has. And perhaps rats aren’t bad at all. I cannot give this film high enough praise – a perfect recipe, made into the best film anyone could wish for.

THE CRUNCH

5/5 Michelin stars

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