Sunday, July 8, 2007


Pixar’s latest crowning achievement is animated splendor.

There are so many great things to say about Ratatouille. Unfortunately, most of those great things have already been said by the top film critics in America. In my opinion, Pixar has proven itself over and over by always trying its hand at something new. With Ratatouille, they succeeded in telling their most eccentric and unusual story yet with amazing charm, appeal, and computer animation that deserves only the best compliments. For me, its hard to explain why I love something as much as a movie about a rat that wishes to be a gourmet chef in Paris. I can give a few details, but my natural reaction is something I prefer not to dig too much into.

I can never say enough about the genius and talent of director Brad Bird. Even though he came on board a few years into the process, his influence is still felt in the movie.

The character designs are some of the best I have seen in any animated film. In Pixar’s previous films, I sometimes had a hard time judging the character designs, because it seemed like they were designed specifically with computer rigging in mind. And because of that, I couldn’t see where any artistic influence could make its way in the design process (of course I learned my lesson after seeing the fantastic Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art two years ago).

When I saw The Incredibles (also directed by Brad Bird), it was the first time I watched computer animation and could actually see the design elements of the characters. I could imagine their faces, poses, and expressions drawn out on paper. That film is what truly turned my head with computer animation.

The expressions of the various characters is handled beautifully. There is a whole new level of acting here. The rats are all designed in ways that they can stretch and emote physically, yet still maintain their rodent-like traits. The sequence when Remy first falls into Gusteau’s kitchen and is scurrying about, trying not to get caught, is priceless character acting.

The main human character, Linguini, is a new step in Pixar’s acting. Linguini is a huge step-forward in physical comedy. Let it be known that the physical comedy inspired by Charles Chaplin and Harpo Marx has not gone out of fashion.

The story is so rich and textured. The characters are all handled with incredible focus. And there wasn’t too much dialog. I am thrilled, because one of the biggest problems with most animated features today is that they use way too much dialog. They are trying to give big-name actors as much chit-chat as possible, so they will have their money’s worth. In Ratatouille, the voice acting is some of the most impressive Pixar has ever had, and yet there isn’t too much dialog, which I love. Animation is all about the expression for me, and all about the essence of the emotion that comes out.

In one scene later on in the movie, there is a monologue from of the characters. Anton Ego (played by Peter O’Toole), a dark, acerbic food critic, has an epiphany and writes a generally positive review. In the review, he opens up on how critics generally thrive on negative criticism, mostly because it is fun to write. In writing this review, I have to agree. This review was hard for me to write, because there was so much about this movie that I loved. It has the potential to go on to become a timeless classic.

If there is anything I question, it is the criticisms I have read thus far. I have read lack of memorable characters (disagree), lack of memorable dialog (not a problem), dialog being too normal (What the hell is wrong with that?), or the writing being too emotional. My answer, animation can tell any story, in any style, in any genre, any way that makes the story work, and any way that the artists can be original.

I do have a few criticisms of my own. Just a couple of character positions I disagreed with. And of course, I disliked the poster. Somehow, I find Remy’s expression on the poster to be kind of perverted.

Then again, there’s no such thing as a perfect film. But that shouldn’t stop one from seeing this fantastic film.

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