Animation has slowly grown into one of the biggest genres in film, and that is for a good reason. Animation can paint a picture live action can’t, with stunning imagery, beautiful detail, and exquisite design. Recently, the teams behind animated features began to notice the power of animation, not only using it to attract family audiences to the theater, but to tell a great story. Studios like Pixar, have defined animation as a true art form, with films like Toy Story, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story 2, just to name a few. With many smart writers and directors like John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Brad Bird, Pixar has been able to turn out a quantity of successful pictures that have left competitors in the dust.
One of Pixar’s least talked about films, is also one of their most accomplished, Ratatouille. With a far more contained premise; instead of a super hero family, a rat with a desire to cook, many audiences seemed to not care as much about this flick, as it was one of Pixar’s least successful at the box office. I can see how audiences were turned off; the basic premise here is a rather odd, one of the more out-of-the-box ideas for sure, but perhaps that is what makes this family flick so special. Ratatouille is not only Pixar’s best, but also the best that the field of animation has to offer.
Ratatouille follows Remy, a rat who dreams to one day become a great chef like his idolized Chef Gusteau. When the talented Remy meets the clueless Linguini, the two form an unlikely duo.
Despite being released several years ago, Ratatouille is Pixar’s best looking film. The animation is lush and beautiful, and captures the true beauty of the great city of Paris, with its bright color palette. Also looking great is the food itself. The dishes look close to their real counterparts, from the layered ratatouille dish to other classic entrees that truly make the audiences’ mouths salivate. I advise you to not go into this film with an empty stomach.
The voice acting cast is great. Patton Oswalt is one of the best talents working today, and shamefully gets very little work. From his great performance in The Young Adult, to his epic rant on Parks and Recreation, Oswalt has shown natural charm, comedic chops, and is extremely affable. Here, Oswalt brings all of these characteristics to Remy, who is one of my personal favorite Pixar characters. Oswalt perfectly captures the true desire and passion in Remy’s heart to cook and follow his dream, along with being funny and charming. Oswalt transforms this seeming simple character into something special.
Pairing off with him is Lou Romano as Linguini. Romano is also not very well-known, but has been a great character actor in Pixar animation films, with many different small roles in other features. Romano is able to make what seems like just the average bumbling idiot into something above-par. Romano is given a lot of the comedic material in the film, and nails it, with his ditsy charm. Both Romano and Oswalt make a great team.
The supporting cast is full of great talent that all do a good job. Ranging from legends like Ian Holm and Peter O’Toole to well known talents like Brad Garrett and Will Arnett, the whole supporting cast bring their best to their roles and make them work. O’Toole especially adds much gravitas to his critic character Anton Ego.
The direction here is fantastic. Brad Bird is growing not only into the best director for animated fare, but one of the better directors working. Bird is able to keep the film at a steady pace, with the movie never having a truly dull moment. Their are several action scenes spread throughout the film, and they are fun, zippy, and perfectly captured.
Bird is a multi-talent, and also wrote the film as well. The script is great, chock full of quick quips from the many chefs, to great development of these characters. Brad Bird has surely become one of the go-to guys for Disney and Pixar, and for good reason. Bird understands that great films are made from great stories, and Bird here perhaps crafted his best. Maybe Disney should have given Bird a chance with one of their newest big properties.
The characteristic about Ratatouille that makes it a masterpiece is its message. Bird really does not play it to safe when it comes to the film’s message, and instead of creating one that will please everyone, the message is overall far more realistic and impacting. The quote “Not everybody can cook, but a cook can come from anywhere” speaks true volumes. It’s simple and to the point, but has volume, especially for a family film.
My favorite Pixar film, Ratatouille is quick-witted, vibrant, and full of fun and warmth. Brad Bird has not only created an animated classic, but one of the better films of the 21st century.
Take a Drink: if you ever picture an actual rat cooking the dishes, that thought is going to give me nightmares!
Take a Drink: for each plate of food.
Do a Shot: when Linguini gets drunk.