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RATATOUILLE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Voices: Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garafalo, Will Arnett, Peter O’Toole
Director: Brad Bird
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Disney/Pixar
Features: See Review
Length: 111 Minutes
Release Date: November 6, 2007

“This much I knew: If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.”

Film ****

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a decade since Disney and Pixar Animations Studios first dazzled audiences with the revolutionary Toy Story. As the years progressed, our senses would be blown away by films such as Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo and, most especially, The Incredibles, which I’ve long hailed as Pixar’s best achievement. Well, that honor has now gone to Ratatouille, which is also the single best animated feature to come out since The Incredibles.

If any other animated movie is going to surpass Mr. Incredible, it may as well be one from the same writer and director, Brad Bird. For my money Bird, with only three films under his belt, has perhaps the single best track record of any director working in animated films today. His first film, The Iron Giant, remains a truly underrated gem, then came the truly incredible Incredibles, now comes his finest piece of work yet.

Let’s face it, if any movie has a rat as the hero who happens to be lovable and incredibly gifted then the movie already has to be onto something. And the rat named Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is one of the best characters any animated feature has delivered. He’s quick witted, intelligent, and filled with endless determination.

But Remy has one slight setback in his life, which is that he’s a rat living in a world where humans get the upper hand treatment. His father (voiced by Brian Dennehy) warns him to stay away from humans. Humans happen to be one of many issues that Remy and his father disagree on. Remy knows he’s supposed to hate humans, but can’t help but admire them for their ability to discover and create.

Remy also happens to carry a gift; a high sense of smell, which comes in handy when determining which kinds of foods are properly edible. He also has a passion for inventing new recipes. Such a passion results in him getting separated from his clan after snooping around an old lady’s home for certain ingredients. An old lady who happens to be armed with a deadly rifle, that is.

Now on his own, Remy soon discovers that he has been living underground in none other than Paris, home of the finest cuisines on Earth. He also finds himself guided by the ghost of his hero, Chef Gusteau (voiced by Brad Garrett). He leads Remy straight to the kitchen of Gusteau’s, the once five star restaraunt, now reduced to a four star level following a scathing review by feared food critic Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O’Toole).

The very night Remy enters to get a view of the kitchen from above, a new employee is starting on his first night. His name is Linguini (voiced by Lou Romano), and though he’s only been hired as the new janitor, Remy catches him toying with the soup after a sudden accident. Remy can’t let this happen, so he jumps to the occasion and puts his gift to use by throwing in spontaneous ingredients into the soup. Much to everyone surprise, the soup gets a favored response, making Linguini appear to be an ideal chef.

So Linguini, having been forced to create more of his special soup, strikes a deal with his new rodent friend. He clearly can’t cook, but knows that Remy can. By finding a way to be disguised under Linguini’s chef attire, Remy can control Linguini’s actions to make it look as if he’s actually cooking. They do find a perfect way to do this, when Remy discovers that with one yank of Linguini’s hair, his hands can be controlled just like a puppet. 

What makes Ratatouille so outstanding is that, like Brad Bird’s previous work, it works on so many different levels. If you look at what’s being offered in the animated movie market today, most of the films seemed to be more concerned with having a state of the art look and going straight for the laughs. Here, you get an animated movie that’s funny, but also has a complete story guiding it along with many different themes being mixed in like perfect food ingredients. You’d be hard pressed to find another animated film that featured physical comedy, romance, the differences between humans and others, the work of a critic, and the passion for food all in the same package.

What’s more, Ratatouille also happens to be THE BEST looking computer animated feature in quite some time. In fact, scratch that, this IS the best computer animated feature to date. There isn’t a single scene to which you won’t be marveled by. Every shot has an incredible level of detail, and Paris has never looked more beautiful or engaging. Credit Bird and his team of animators for a most outstanding job.

It goes without saying that Ratatouille is far and away one of the truly best film offerings of 2007. Watching it delivers a certain level of joy and wonder that I haven’t felt from many of the recent animated fare, with the exception of Monster House. Both Disney and Pixar have outdone themselves incredibly, as Ratatouille is destined to become a treasured classic for years to come!

Video ****

“Now shut up and eat your garbage!”

Having seen this film in the theaters, and immediately calling it the best animated feature of the year, or any year, I knew right away that it would result in the best looking animated DVD release of the year. And I was right, as Disney and Pixar add another fantastic looking disc…make that THE BEST looking disc of any of their releases to the vault. From the first scene, every aspect from the outstanding colors to the smallest detail of animation will astound your eyes. To sum it up in one word, this presentation is DAZZLING!

Audio ****

“We hate to be rude BUT, we’re French.”

The sound on the Disney/Pixar movies is always expected to astound as well, and the 5.1 mix on this release does just that. A lot of physical mayhem ensues, putting the channels to extravagant use. Music score and dialogue delivery are also at a super high level. Certainly the absolute best sound quality to be found on any animated release this year!

Features **1/2

“Oh, I’m detecting nuttiness.”

Not as many extras as I would’ve expected on a Disney/Pixar release (nowhere near the level of The Incredibles), but what is left on the menu is serviceable. Featured are Deleted Scenes, a featurette titled “Fine Food & Film” featuring director Brad Bird and acclaimed Chef Thomas Keller. Also included is the Pixar animated short Lifted, which was featured with the movie in its theatrical run, and a new animated short, Remy & Emile in Your Friend the Rat.

Summary:

I can’t say enough about Ratatouille, which is nothing less than a wonderful movie experience. Awe-inspiring animation mixes with a rich story, memorable characters and extreme comedy to deliver a pure animated movie classic. It’s simply a treat for anyone who watches it!

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