Ratatouille (2007) (mini-review++)

(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 10

directing 10

effects 10

editing 10

writing 10

SW SCORE: 50

5 out of 5 🐙

++

Sometimes I can take my unqualified, amateur reviewer ethos and separate my taste from my judgment and deliver an objective evaluation of a piece of art.

This ain’t one of those times.

I love this movie with all my heart and all my soul and all my stomach and all my lymph nodes and every other single atom in my body. Because of this movie, I moved to Europe. Because of this movie, my life changed for the better and would never be the same. But my own bias aside, it is the absolutely perfect example of the underdog and underappreciated rising to shock the elite. It is such a glorious love letter to French cooking and Paris itself that I almost ended up living there. The film’s villain (Anton Ego) delivers a perfect soliloquy on the nature of negative criticism to kick off the denouement. The animation, while always carrying that Pixar overtone, gets a bit more stylish than in previous films and just oozes charm. The struggle between two generations in a marginalized community (yes, I’m talking about talking rats here – get off my back – the themes are universal) are touching and rough and fair. But most of all, and for me, all of these wonderful things are really equal, but something has to break the tie. And it’s the absolute passion that Rey has for cooking. His love for his art is so lovingly portrayed and so vibrant that it made me want to be that passionate about anything. The end made me so happy that I literally cried tears of joy for the first time in my life. Yes, I know I am really piling it on here, but I can’t be convinced to be measured. I’m in love and I don’t care who knows.

Feels level (0 being no tears, 10 being waterfall): 2 – Look, it’s my favorite Pixar movie but while there are some dreadful moments, such as when Remy is separated from his family), they are drowned out in the irresistible joy of passion made real. You might cry like I did. But it will be because your heart is full.

As an added bonus (or curse?), I am adding my thoughts that came just after seeing it in June 2007.

I happened on the fact that Ratatouille, Pixar’s sixth animated offering, was being shown in sneak previews.   As soon as I saw the teaser in the theaters, I wanted to see this film.  Steve Jobs’ wee animation studio had never done me wrong up until that point, and the plot was short and sweet.  A rat who wants to be a chef?  In Paris?  Serve me.

Ratatouille takes place in modern day France.  It starts in the quaint countryside where we are introduced to our hero, a country rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt).  Remy of course is no ordinary rat.  He is not satisfied with living off the garbage the humans deign to throw away.  He is blessed with extraordinary senses that make eating trash impossible.  His snobbery or some would say artistry infuriates his entire colony, including his well-meaning father (insert first subplot: fatherly approval/family love).  Remy’s passion for cooking leads to a high caliber debacle (that you CANNOT see coming) that leaves him separated from his entire family.  Alone in a strange sewer, Remy is visited by an unusual but familiar friend who challenges him to explore upward.  He discovers he is in Paris, the self-proclaimed gastronomic capital of the world and home to his hero chefs.

By another stunning coincidence (hey, no movie is perfect), he finds himself above Gusteau’s; the restaurant run by his now deceased favorite chef.  Remy is so thrilled that he can watch the great kitchen from above when fate intervenes and he is dropped quite literally into the mix.  Linguini (Lou Romano), a gangly garbage boy, discovers Remy displaying his culinary talents and strikes a bargain with him after the rodent’s skills are confirmed by a notoriously particular critic.

Remy and Linguini strike up a partnership that begins to set Paris’ dining elite on notice.  I don’t want to say too much more because I think I have said too much already.  What I can say is that in typical Pixar fashion the animation is superb. At the time this was released in 2007, no other animation studio was second or third or even fourth in this race.  The story as usual is simple but extremely solid and creative to boot.  The characters are vivid and three-dimensional, much more so than most live action renderings.  Two fine examples are Skinner (Ian Holm), the evil chef who is tormented by visions of a menacing rat, and Collette, the fiery feminist love interest voiced with surprising sweetness by Janeane Garofalo. But the finest voice casting in the crowd is Peter O’Toole as the terrifying food critic Anton Ego.   He steals every scene he is in and is one of the best cartoon villains ever.  The pacing is rip roaring.  The chase scenes and comic set pieces are spread generously and appropriately.

This could easily pass with the highest marks just based on comedy and animation, but that would not be just.  This movie, as Nemo did with unquestionable parental sacrifice and A Bug’s Life did with liberty versus tyranny, takes on racism and classicism with surprising depth.  It could not be set in a sharper spot.  France in 2007 was a country with race riots, a president who has gone on record saying he doesn’t want Muslim countries in the European Union, and an unhealthy amount of anti-Semitic vandalism and violence.

Like all good animated features, the kids get to laugh at the cool creatures running from stylized bad guys while the adults get to snicker at jokes that sail over the toddler’s heads.  Ratatouille honors this effective tradition with perfect balance.  While the subject of racism and class structure is overt, it does not make the movie somber or dark.  Beyond anything, this is the ultimate feel good movie.

Now I know you clove smoking, earth tone wearing, noodniks are sneering at the above intimated “happy ending.”  Please stay away.  If you had your druthers seminal classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Harvey, or It’s a Wonderful Life would lose their hope and depth.  These films resonate in pop culture with bubble gum sweetness because of their joyous endings, but these reputations hardly encompass the operatic journeys these stories took to reach their resolution.

This was without question the finest animated film of 2007.  It won a plethora of “Best Animated Film” awards for that year, including the Academy Award. Call me a sap.  Or a dirty rat.  I will sit back, spread some Brie on my cracker, and munch on it with a big fat smile on my face.

PS – The Pixar tradition of front loading their features with a brilliant short is carried on with Lifted, a story about training.  Saying anything else would ruin it.  Along with Ratatouille battling for best Pixar movie ever (although I still can’t shove aside Toy Story II), this brave new short is probably the best appetizer so far.

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(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)

2 thoughts on “Ratatouille (2007) (mini-review++)

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