Ratatouille (helpfully spelled out phonetically on the movie posters, reminding us that yes, this movie is theoretically aimed at the under 10 crowd) follows the story of misfit French rat Remy, whose aspirations of becoming a chef are held back by his unsympathetic, garbage eating family. Destiny intervenes when a freak accident involving a shotgun toting grandmother and the Parisian sewer system lands Remy in the kitchen of his idol, the late Chef Auguste Gusteau. There, he teams up with the inexperienced “Linguini”, a garbage boy with similar dreams of chef-dom. The rest is director Brad Bird’s usual blend of sly wit, slapstick timing, and beautiful rendering. Beautiful rendering. I won’t subject you to the depths of my animation geekery here, but I will say that this is one of the most gorgeously animated films I’ve seen in awhile.
What impressed me the most about this movie was the depth to which Bird was willing to layer the story. The black and white messages usually crammed onto every inch of screen time were notably greyer, and as a result what should have been a simple animated feature held a note of realism I’d be gratified to see in mainstream non-animated films. Despite a humbler story-line than his previous films (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, and the wreck that was Cars) Bird retains a sense of pathos that comes across perfectly and sets Ratatouille apart from any other animated film produced this year.
I also have to throw out a nod to Pixar’s traditional pre- and post-film animation sequences. The short at the beginning, “Lifted”, is worth the price of admission alone. Fortunately, you won’t have to pay it: youtube.com/watch?v=Qs3FfayHBM8 Watch that, then keep in mind the following 105 minutes only get better from there.
(webeditors note – this URL returns ” This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by PIXAR” but you can do a search on youtube for ‘Lifted’ and possibly find one they haven’t yanked yet).