Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Movie Review: Ratatouille

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Very funny scenes, top notch animation as always
Cons: Too may plots spoiled the broth
The Bottom Line:
Not perfect Pixar
There is too much happening
But still worth a watch

Rat Can Cook

I knew this day would come eventually, but I was dreading it. Since I first saw Toy Story in 1995, I have been in love with Pixar. The only one of their films I didn't instantly love was The Incredibles, but even that one I grew to love with time. So it pains me to say that Ratatouille is not up to the usual brilliance we expect from a Pixar film.

The story is about Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt). He has a refined sense of smell and a love of good food. His hero is the late, great chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett), and thanks to his TV show and cookbook, Remy has the knowledge to be one of the best chefs in the world. The only problem? Remy's a rat.

When Remy's family is forced to evacuate their home, Remy gets separated from them. He winds up in Paris just outside of Gusteau's restaurant. Since he can't resist seeing where his idol once worked, Remy sneaks inside.

And that's how Remy meets Linguini (Lou Romano). Linguini is the new garbage boy at the restaurant, and he's something of a klutz. When Linguini accidentally ruins a soup, Remy can't help but fix it. The new recipe is a huge success, but only Linguini knows that a rat made it.

And so beings their partnership. Remy provides the cooking knowledge and Linguini provides the human form. Together, they begin to turn the reputation of the restaurant around. But can they keep their secret hidden?

Now my opening paragraph sounds like I didn't enjoy the film at all. That's not true. There are some truly funny parts, especially the scenes where Remy is trying to control Linguini. And their first scene working together is a riot as well.

Pixar certainly hasn't failed in the animation department. While there aren't the panoramas that we saw with Cars, the animation is still wonderful to look at. And a few scenes of Paris are beautiful.

What makes the movie interesting is the attempt to keep parts of it real. Remy can talk to the other rats, but he and Linguini can only communicate by gesture and looks. This was a nice twist on the usual talking animal movie. Since their relationship is the key to the film, much of the work falls on the animators to make it work. And they do a brilliant job of getting Remy's every thought and feeling across with just his body language.

The voice cast features a few well known voices like Peter O'Toole, the previously mentioned Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, and Pixar staple John Ratzenberger. But the rest of the cast, including the two leads, are unknown. The movie proves you don't need well known names to make a successful animated feature since everyone does a great job voicing their roles.

So where exactly did the movie fall apart? It was just too busy. Remy has a storyline with a couple plots. Linguini has his own issues. And neither one is really given time to develop fully. We focus on one issue for a while, then move on to something else. Item three gets resolved, then we get item four before going back to two, then five, then…. You get the idea. If they had taken out one of the sub-plots, anyone of them, it would have allowed more time to better develop the plots that remained and even develop the characters better.

Remember in the opening I mentioned not liking The Incredibles right off the bat? The writer/director of that movie, Brad Bird, is responsible for this movie as well. I never cared for his The Iron Giant, either, which many people just rave about. My problem may just be that I don't "get" him.

While I agree with the movie's G rating, this isn't a movie for little kids. There isn't that much action to hold their interest. Elementary age and above should be able to track the story, so they will enjoy it more.

Maybe a second viewing will change my mind on this film. But for now I remain disappointed. Ratatouille is an entertaining movie that is worth seeing. Just don't go expecting the outstanding story telling that Pixar usually provides.

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