Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Ratatouille (2007)

I wasn't much impressed by the first teaser trailer for this film, which mostly just showed a rat running through a restaurant kitchen while stuff gets thrown at it.  But a friend who got to see an early screening told me it was good, so I did check it out.

He was right, it is a good film - which is why I bought the DVD - but I'd still only rate it as a middle tier Pixar film.  Of course, even 'mediocre' by Pixar standards is pretty good.

Before I discuss my quibbles with the movie, and the reasons I think it's not up to the standards of Toy Story 2 or The Incredibles, or yes, even Cars, but first let's start by talking about what I do like.

Firstly, there are the character designs.  As you can see from the image above, they're not photorealistic by any means, but they do perfectly suit the characters.  Whether it is the vulpine loom of food critic Anton Ego, or the gangling, disheveled appearance of Linguini, they're all distinctive and engaging in their look.

Backing that up is the voice cast, which is uniformly excellent, and well chosen for their roles.  Peter O'Toole is a particular delight as the disdainful Ego.

The third thing I like is that the film chose a topic so simultaneously mundane and wonderful.  Food is something we all have to deal with every day, but it's also something that can bring great joy.  The film acknowledges this and celebrates it.  Importantly, it shows that food doesn't have to be fancy to bring great pleasure (as anyone whose ever downed a tim tam slam would know).  Consciously or not, I wouldn't be surprised if my friend appreciated this part of the film.  He's a keen barbecue cook, you see.

So what didn't I like?  Well, while the film doesn't break the rules of the setting it creates, it does require an awful lot of my suspension of disbelief.  A rat who wants to be a chef?  Okay.  A rat who wants to be a chef and learns to understand human speech and writing?  Well, okay ... I guess.  A rat who just happens to meet a human he can control like a marionette by yanking on the guy's hair - and the guy is okay with that?  Well, now you're pushing it.

I feel like the script could have been reworked to rely just a little less on these steadily mounting contrivances, and that would have made for a better film.  What we get is good, it's just not great.

Still, unless you have a pathological aversion for family-friendly animation, you won't regret making a reservation with Ratatouille.

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