Animation and Anime

A Couple Of RATATOUILLE Reviews Come Squeaking In!

Published at: June 16, 2007, 2:52 a.m. CST by Moriarty

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Disney’s evidently running a nationwide sneak of RATATOUILLE on Saturday night, and I would recommend that you make the effort to get out and see it. I’m working on my own review of the film, but for now, we’ve got a couple of reviews from people who saw early screenings, and I want to run them to encourage all of you to check this one out. This is a very, very special movie.

Hello! I attended an advance screening of Disney/Pixar's RATATOUILLE in Boston Monday night. This was a free MySpace promotion, and the crowd started lining up inside the Boston Common Theater around 5 for the 7:30 show. There was a brief, exclusive recorded intro from Brad Bird -- nothing too amazing, just a little "hello" to get the crowd pumped -- followed by a short featurette called "The Comedians of Ratatouille" which had zippily-edited interviews with Oswalt, Garofalo etc. It looked like they had as much fun as you'd expect working on a Pixar flick. A short called "Lifted" precedes the feature, and it's a pretty hilarious riff on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, crossed with your high school driver's-ed class. Pixar's shorts are always a marvel of character animation and crack comic timing (I thought CARS was actually a bit of a step down from the "One Man Band" short attached to it), and this was no different. Plus it has the geek-centric advantage of being about aliens. They look a bit like MONSTERS INC rejects, only made out of flubber. Big laughs from the audience, which kicked things off on a good note. On to RATATOUILLE. This is a slightly different kind of film for Pixar. In fact, it's unlike any American animated film we've seen in quite a few years. With its relatively relaxed tone (for a cartoon) and lack of wacky, wise-crackin' sidekicks, this one is miles away from the hellzapoppin' hijinks of the SHREK films and their various rip-offs. This is not to say it's not funny. There's a set piece involving a character being used as a sleepwalking marionette that will remind some of the classic Goofy films, and there's a moment where one character's *very* last-second decision not to pepper-spray another got the biggest laugh I've heard in ages. Director Brad Bird's visual inspiration seems to be vintage Disney fare like LADY AND THE TRAMP. They've set a new standard for using computer animation to achieve a marvelously warm, hand-made quality, and I thought more than once during the film that I wish they gave Cinematography Oscars to cartoons. It gives us a Paris that's modern, yet dreamlike. The performances are just right. Patton Oswalt is sharp and endearing as Remy, and he gets the lyricism and the desperation that come from pursuing one's passions. There's a pretty huge chunk of the film, however, where Remy is essentially mute, and the film is given over to his human foil Linguini, voiced by Lou Romano, an unknown who works behind the scenes at Pixar. It was Linguini I found myself thinking of after the film, and I imagine Romano will be heard in some capacity in their next few films. He's sweet and silly without being annoying, and together Linguini and Remy make for a classic comic pairing. By the end of the film, the audience was literally roaring with delight over the nimble twists the film navigates. I've been to early screenings where the free-ness and the excitement of seeing something early can make a crowd a little more enthusiastic than a film might actually warrant, but in this case I'll give the credit to the film itself. The crowd was applauding before the closing credits even started rolling. I'm a big fan of what Pixar has done in the last dozen years. I can't get enough of THE INCREDIBLES and the TOY STORYs, while I was merely appreciative of CARS and FINDING NEMO, with MONSTERS INC and A BUG'S LIFE sitting in-between for me. RATATOUILLE seems like another instant classic, and goes a long way toward alleviating my disappointment with the lackluster CARS. It should go over like gangbusters. - The New Cruelty

Great nickname, dude. I heard that the MySpace screenings went amazingly well, and it doesn’t surprise me at all. This is a film that speaks up to its audience instead of talking down to them, and that sensation is so unusual this summer so far that it must drive crowds wild. Check out this second review. This is probably the worst review I’ve read so far, and it’s still pretty damn good.

Hey all – I just crept my way out of a sneak preview of Ratatouille and so here I am to throw a few bones of cast-off goodness to you and all the other animation freaks out there: The Good: It's better than Cars. Granted, that's not a very hard stunt to pull off (no goddamned buddy songs or trash-talking-hotshots learning-life-lessons from-a-gang-of-obselete-misfits here, no sir), but it's still worth mentioning all the same. It's not nearly as good as The Incredibles, Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc. (to say nothing of Brad Bird's only non-Pixar feature-length flick, The Iron Giant), but we'll get to that later. The film's set-up is as such: A rat named Remy befriends a human schmuck named Linguini - Linguini also just happens to be a hapless garbage boy employed by what used to be Paris's most hoity-toity 5-star restaurant. We soon discover that said restaurant recently lost one of those 5 stars after a food critic (voiced by Peter O'Toole) lambasted the joint with a scathing smack-down in his newspaper column, which in turn lead to the death (presumably a heart attack) of the restaurant's founder, Auguste Gusteau. Remy the rat, is of course, a goddamned cooking genius of almost Iron Chef proportions, and so he and Linguini (who has absolutely no innate cooking skill of his own) secretly work together in the kitchen, and in doing so accidentally foist Gueateu's restaurant back into the limelight of the culinary world. Pretty simple plot, right? Anyone with half a brain already knows that by the end of the film some of Remy's talent in the kitchen will have rubbed off on Linguini, proving the oft-repeated motto of the film that "ANYONE CAN COOK!" Well, that's not what happens. Not at all. In fact, Linguini doesn't learn jack shit except how to wait tables and to stay the hell out of Remy's way in the kitchen, which serves as an extension of the whole "LET AWESOME PEOPLE BE AWESOME AND EVERYONE ELSE HAD BETTER JUST STAY OUTTA THE WAY" story motif that Brad Bird used as the thematic motif in The Incredibles. In fact, one could easily argue that element of Ratatouille's plot (genius motherfucker steps in and fixes everything after a n00b lets things all go to hell) is really just a bit of art imitating life (Brad Bird took over the reigns of Ratatouille after the flick's original director, Jan Pinkava, left the project in the middle of the film's development), but that's a backseat-bit of psycho-analysis better left to someone else, I'm sure. It's a beautiful fucking flick. Whereas Cars was all about the radiosity of light (remember all that brain-cra,ping;y-awesome reflective neon light in the "fixing up the town sequence" in Cars?), Ratatouille is all about the luminisoty of light. Everything in this flick glows with it's own inner light, light that catches the air and scatters all around in blooming halos of soft, fluffy incandescence. It's great goddamned stuff. Also worth nothing are a lot of other details, from the pockmarked texture of a frenchman's complexion to the nappy fur of a bazillion nearly-drowned rats to the reflection of the Paris skyline in the Remy's eyeballs, Pixar continues to nail all of the the tiny details that count when bringing a world to life. The animation itself is pretty swell, too, especially Remy's transitions from anthropomorphic rat to full-on four-legged rat-mode, where he scampers and leaps and snifs at objects in a heightened version of real-world rat behaviour. (There's also a great shot where Linguini confronts Remy on a darkened riverbank, where Remy's eyes shine in the dark in a way that'll be familiar to anyone who's ever had to crash in a New York City tenement.) (I have to admit that there are hitches and burps in the animation every great once in a while, though - I'm still not entirely sure why some of the characters move like cocktail waitresses with a broomstick shoved up their asses when climbing steps or turning around at the waist, but on the whole, Ratatouille's animation still beats motion-captured bullshit by country mile.) And speaking of mocap: Pixar takes a great swipe at motion-capture animation with a cheeky "100% Motion Capture Free!" certificate tacked onto the very ass end of the final credits. Take *that* Zemekis/creators of Monster House/etc! The Bad: Ratatouille's story comes off as being a little...undercooked. (Yeah, yeah, that'll be the first of 8 billion goodamned cooking-related metaphors you're gonna have shoved down your throats regarding Ratatouille between now and July - better get used to it, kids.) It's hard to describe exactly what's missing, but on whole the flick's plot is pretty unremarkable, and just feels like your average ordinary flicktoon-plot just with a glossy Brad-Bird-flavored sheen character-driven coating of humour glazed on top. Again, that's not necessarily a *bad* thing, but folks still waiting for Pixar's return to genre-defying glory will be a bit disappointed. (I'm thinking that Andrew "Finding Nemo" Stanton's next flick, Wall-E, may prove to be exactly what most of us have been waiting for, what with the rumour that it'll may feature little to no dialogue and will instead opt to tell its story entirely through pantomime. It'd be great to see animation itself be the star of a top-of-the-line CG flick rather than a parade of B-list stars. We'll all see how that shapes up by next summer, I suppose.) Kids are gonna have a hard time slogging through the endless parade of makeshift French accents being flung at them for two straight hours. Expect lots of "what did she say, Mommy?" if you happen to catch Ratatouille at weekend matinee, folks. The opening short "Lifted", directed by longtime Lucasfilm sound engineer and Pixar collaborator Gary Rydstrom is pretty funny, but not quite as nifty as some of the more recent shorts to come bouncing out of the studios lately. (I think last year's short - the one with the two dueling street musicians - was by itself damned near worth the price of admission to Cars, but that's just me.) Naturally, when going to see a movie about good eats, you're gonna get hungrier than usual while parked in the dark. Be sure to bring something to munch on during the film (in this case, smuggling in a few cheese sticks and a wine spritzer may not be such a bad idea...) To sum it up: Ratitouille is a good (but not great) effort from Pixar, though it'll be interesting to see how McDonald's figures out a way to market cancer-inducing Ratatouille Happy Meals to kids when one of the movie's central themes is "don't eat garbage!" If you guys use this, call me Gunpowder Throw-Up Poo Poo Eggs.

Readers Talkback

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  • June 16, 2007, 3 a.m. CST

    First.... not really.

    by W3bzpinn3r

    :)

  • June 16, 2007, 3:35 a.m. CST

    Pixar

    by Zorak5

    hasn't put out a truly great film since Toy Story. The Incredibles was good, but every other Pixar effort I seen has just been... boring. The quality of animation is always high, but the stories mediocre. Ratatouille looks like more of the same.

  • June 16, 2007, 5:03 a.m. CST

    I would have to agree with the 2nd review...

    by GobBluth06

    I saw Ratatouille as well and I completely agree with the 2nd review. It's not bad but its definitely not the kind of Pixar film we're used to. Thats not a bad thing though. I would love to see Pixar go in new directions. I am really looking forward to Wall-E! Anyways, I do agree that one of Ratatouille's main problem is that people are not going to be expecting to see what they get. They're going to see the next Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, etc... They're not going to be expecting to get a kind of plain kids movie. Thats what I felt about Ratatouille. It's just a plain kids movie. Nothing memorable really at all. I'm being generous calling it a kids movie. I don't think any kid under 12 will find this movie entertaining once the "hey look, cute furry rats!" aka first 5 minutes of the movie phase has passed.

  • June 16, 2007, 5:15 a.m. CST

    Patton Oswalt is doing voice acting for several years.

    by DerLanghaarige

    So I'm not surprised that he is good in it. (Did you know that he is Professor Dementor in "Kim Possible"?)

  • June 16, 2007, 6:49 a.m. CST

    Was that Bomb-Voyage in the background?

    by Horseflesh

    Someone who's seen it back me up here... was that the Incredibles villain in that one shot doing pantomime or was that just some generic mime character?

  • June 16, 2007, 8:23 a.m. CST

    "seems like another instant classic"

    by lost.rules

    Instant Classic? Isn't that an oxymoron?

  • June 16, 2007, 2:08 p.m. CST

    Why is this getting so much aicn coverage?

    by krushjudgement

    I like Brad Bird and all, but this just isn't blowing up my skirt. Also Patton Oswalt sounds like Nathan Lane. It makes me want to shove #2 pencils into my eardrums.

  • June 16, 2007, 2:35 p.m. CST

    Disney no longer deals with McDonalds...

    by Deadwood Dan

    Disney didn't re-up with McDonald's over licensing because they didn't wanna be associated with fat kids.

  • June 16, 2007, 3 p.m. CST

    krushjudgement - check out the ads

    by theBigE

    Hmmm - ads on this site promoting Rat and intel computers, if you haven't noticed. And you still wonder why it gets AICN coverage? C'mon, Pixar has a great track record, and any movie fan should be excited about their next film.

  • June 16, 2007, 8:46 p.m. CST

    Just got home from preview screening...

    by darshn22

    It was amazing...

  • June 16, 2007, 9:08 p.m. CST

    2ND REVIEW

    by david19

    Bad hack writers smell like a dead skunk on a hot june day. It annoys the hell out of me when I read retarded reviews like the one Gunpowder Throw-Up Poo Poo Eggs wrote. The guy thinks he's funny apparently, and for some reason peppered his entire review with cuss words just cause its kitchy, and uses an inordinate amount of parantheses to add in little side jokes for us all to laugh at.<P> You are an idiot. You're writing for RATATOUILLE, a kids movie, not fucking Die Hard 12. <P>(Oops was that an unnecessary use of the word "fuck"?)

  • June 16, 2007, 9:12 p.m. CST

    Saw it tonight...

    by Wungolioth

    Loved it! My 12 yr old daughter loved it, and she was real iffy on it going in, but I convinced her to go because it was a sneak peek. I will say that the theater was far from crowded, so that might be a bad sign from the boxoffice standpoint. Did anyone else find that it didn't attract a big crowd? If I had one gripe, it was Garofalo's horrible French accent, I could hardly understand every other word of her dialogue. It always seems harder when someone is putting on an accent, they should have hired an actual French actress who could speak English, it might have come off better. I looked at that mime, Horseflesh, but nothing about him screamed Bomb Voyage to me, but you never know, Pixar love to throw in little in-jokes like that.

  • June 16, 2007, 9:16 p.m. CST

    Saw Snaek Peek

    by darquelyte

    Great! Theater was full too, so that's great. The word of mouth from this preview might help this movie. I know many people that said it would freak them out to see a rat cooking, even in a cartoon. I told them they need to grow up. Brad Bird knows his stuff. Truly.

  • June 16, 2007, 9:16 p.m. CST

    That would be Sneak Peek

    by darquelyte

    Oy.

  • June 16, 2007, 9:25 p.m. CST

    Best film of the year

    by JackIsLost

    Just got back from a sneak preview. Brad Bird is a frickin' genius. This movie was so funny, so warm, so smart... no modern jokes, nothing. Peter O'Toole rules! Give him an Oscar for being in a cartoon, that would be fitting given how many times he's been overlooked. Kids in the audience absolutely flipped... first time I have EVER seen a movie get a standing ovation (or maybe they were just clapping as they stood up...). Anyway, the applause was long and loud. This will probably be the biggest hit of the summer. Linguini getting drunk cannot be missed.... who cares if it's rated G. BFD.

  • June 16, 2007, 9:36 p.m. CST

    I add my applause for this one-

    by gunslinger7000

    saw the sneak tonight with my wife and daughter. It was incredible. I think it's Pixar's best movie yet. Great stuff.

  • June 16, 2007, 9:36 p.m. CST

    I add my applause for this one-

    by gunslinger7000

    saw the sneak tonight with my wife and daughter. It was incredible. I think it's Pixar's best movie yet. Great stuff.

  • June 16, 2007, 10:26 p.m. CST

    Saw sneak peek in Houston-Loved IT!

    by mychallenge

    Our family of four saw the sneak peek tonight and loved it. I don't usually laugh out loud at movies, but I did - so did my 8 year-old! We did not leave the theater raving, but the more we reflected on how much we laughed - without bathroom humor - the more highly we rated the movie as a whole. Animation and expressions are incredible from a technical point of view. Humor was clever and not predictable. Plot had some interesting sub-plots that all came together in the end. Funny double-meaning of the food critics final review - can we say, "Take THAT, movie critics!" ??? From our family of four - Great movie that does not insult your intelligence! Thanks Pixar - Disney!

  • June 16, 2007, 11:23 p.m. CST

    Hands down the best movie of the year

    by SifoDyasJr.

    And tied with Toy Story 2 for the best Pixar movie, IMO. I had lower expectations on this one and was totally blown away. How can anyone stomach a Dreamworks animated movie after seeing this?

  • June 16, 2007, 11:32 p.m. CST

    AGREE BEST film of year

    by twinski

    Easily so. Wow. This is a film. Not an animated film. They simply use the talking rat as an actor. This had the look and feel of an all time classic. Will see this again in the theater.

  • June 16, 2007, 11:47 p.m. CST

    Filthy Pixar Spies

    by Damer1

    Are everywhere... and they appear to be posting tonight.

  • June 17, 2007, 12:37 a.m. CST

    PLANT PLANT PLANT PLANT PLANT PLANT PLANT

    by J-Dizzle

    PLANTS! ALL OF THEM PLANTS! PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT!

  • June 17, 2007, 5:03 a.m. CST

    One More Filthy PIXAR Spy

    by Poetry-In-Motion

    I have to agree with David19's take on the 2nd reviewer. I saw the preview in my town earlier tonight (a completely packed house) and I was simply blown away by this film! As an aspiring animator & rabid PIXAR and Bird fan, my expectations were high going in, yet I could not have been happier with the final result. If the audience reaction was any indicator, Ratatoille will be HUGE this summer, and deservedly so. BTW, I also found the inebriated Linguini scene to be hilarious, but have to wonder how this made it into a G movie (especially when the character hardly looks 17?)Also, The New Cruelty (1st reviewer) was dead on about the pepper spray bit, by far the single funniest moment in recent cinema.

  • June 17, 2007, 7:54 a.m. CST

    How I would rank Pixar's efforts...

    by JackIsLost

    1. Ratatouille / 2. Finding Nemo / 3. Toy Story 2 / 4. The Incredibles / 5. Toy Story / 5. Monsters, Inc. / 6. A Bug's Life / 7. Cars ---- I consider Monsters, Inc. and A Bug's Life to be pretty good even if they are really too "cute" for their own good while I think Cars is an incredibly weak movie that really doesn't work at all.

  • June 17, 2007, 8:18 a.m. CST

    Poetry-In-Motion...

    by JackIsLost

    Hardly the first time someone had drank alcohol in a G-rated Disney film. If memory serves, pirates are drinking rum in "Peter Pan" and in "Sleeping Beauty", the two dads get completely shit-faced. Didn't "Pinocchio" get drunk at Pleasure Island? Hard to remember... Anyway, seems to be okay as long as it's played for laughs or (in the case of "Pinocchio") as cautionary tale...

  • June 17, 2007, 10:14 a.m. CST

    It sure beats the crap out of the sequels!!!

    by shartron

    This is why we go to the movies. I actually was paying attenton to every detail in this film. Absolutely beautiful animation. I think this is a film for ages 7 and above. A lot of families had toddlers and infants at this screening that lost interest. Even my 4 year old was getting fidgety. The humor and dialogue is geared for a slightly older audience which is great. That's why Pixar is superior in every way over other studios. They care about their product. Also, we had the worst previews in history before this film: Underdog, Daddy Day Camp with Cuba "Murphy" Jr., and Bratz the Movie. Pure garbage! At least the short Pixar preview for Wall E was nice.

  • June 17, 2007, 10:51 a.m. CST

    Saw it last night at AMC Hoffman 22

    by Kentucky Colonel

    Got there early with the wife in tow (she let me know that it was playing, in fact) and had a ball. Nope, it's not "The Incredibles", but then again, it ain't "Cars", either, which is good. The play of the light was fantastic. Some Parisian streetscapes were photo-realistic without being too "real". I, too, found the occasional stiffness in the animation (characters climbing steps...gotaa work on that) and why is it that the only folks without a ree-dick-you-luss ack-scent were the two leads? And, I don't think the kiddies will go apeshit o'er it. For myself, I loved the hell out of it (Jill, too) and will be putting it on my shelf when the DVD is out 6 months from now. I, too, also loved the "100% Motion-Capture Free" tag at the end of the credits (which as always are worth sitting through, but hey, I'm a credits-watcher). Remember the days when it would take two or three years for a movie to come out on home video? Now, I've got to find a recipe for Ratatouille. Looks yummy!

  • June 17, 2007, 11:32 a.m. CST

    Review from CA

    by PBoy

    I saw a screening last night with my 5 year old daughter. We are very picky when it comes to what our children can watch. We are hesitant to take them to see PG movies like Shrek. The studios seem to put stuff in there just to avoid a G rating at all costs. Well, Pixar seems just to make movies to make good movies. The ratings don't seem to make one difference. Anyway, Ratatouille was amazing. It is sophisticated on every level. While my daughter didn't get some of the themes or jokes she still enjoyed the movie and we often were laughing at the same great physical humor. I think they need to cast Linguini in that Danny Kay remake. The visuals were stunning and felt great to look at. I would nominate this film for cinematography at the next academy awards. I wouldn't be suprised if it did get some non animation nods this next year. I know I sound like a Fan Boy and the truth is I love animation. It's just that this film really stands a part from other american films as of late. I am a firm believer in the idea that animation is not a genre and should not be shoe horned into being only for kids and full of smart ass talking animals. Even though this had talking animals they were not smart-assed they were just smart. So in conclusion I loved it My Daughter loved it and now my wife, who loves cooking and is a brilliant chef, can't wait to see it.

  • June 17, 2007, 11:41 a.m. CST

    An American Rat in Paris

    by football

    Surely a more suitable title, non? That said those pesky Yankie rats get everywhere. Had one in my Antartica cabin's portaloo only the other week. Needless to say I gave him a wise crack he didn't forget.

  • June 17, 2007, 1:53 p.m. CST

    another review from CA

    by Eternal Watcher

    Near-packed house at a UA theater. Finally a movie that's not a rerun, I mean sequel, with a good story. It's not just about cooking, and a little guy making it big, it's about trust and relationships, too. This is Best Animated Feature at next year's Oscars. Sorry, Shrek

  • June 17, 2007, 11:04 p.m. CST

    Yay. Can't wait to see it. These guys know how

    by superninja

    to make movies!

  • June 17, 2007, 11:14 p.m. CST

    EMBRACE THE G RATING!

    by JackIsLost

    Seriously, it's become as meaningless as the R-rating (as it seems no amount of violence warrants an NC-17). "2001: A Space Odyssey" is also rated G but I wouldn't recommend trying to use that as a babysitter for the kids. To anyone who sits this one out because it's rated G, you're loss... this is one of the best films of the decade.

  • June 17, 2007, 11:15 p.m. CST

    YOUR, not "you're"

    by JackIsLost

    Damn typos.

  • June 18, 2007, 2:08 a.m. CST

    freaking fantastic

    by drave117

    I caught an advanced screening of this on Saturday night, and I was utterly blown away. A work of pure beauty, and the most fun I have had at the movies all year. Our screening was completely packed. Standing room only. It received two standing ovations. One the second the credits started to roll, and another after the credits were finished. At least 20% of the sold out theater stayed all the way through the credits, which I have NEVER seen happen. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Brad Bird is America's Miyazaki. I can't wait to see what his upcoming live action project will turn out to be. The opening short was hilarious, and beautifully animated. It drew a great reaction from our crowd. The teaser for Wall-E was also very well-received. Frankly, it made the team behind Robots look like little bitches. This li'l guy wasn't even remotely humanoid, he was only on screen for maybe twenty seconds, and in that short amount of time, he won over the entire crowd by displaying more heart and soul in twenty seconds than was in the entire length of Robots, the film that [stupid] people are calling it a rip-off of. So, yeah, it was a good evening. I can't wait to see it again in a couple of weeks, and this time I will know to bring food with me. I have never seen computer-generated food look so delicious.

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