Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

It’s silly to ‘review’ a Pixar animations studios film because all of their films are great.  I’m really not one for generalizations and blanket statements as there is gray area in practically everything, but not this, not yet.  If over a period of twelve years you have done something that is excellent every single time, what is there that’s going to lead me to believe that the next thing you do won’t be excellent as well?  For whatever reason ‘Cars’ received less than grand critical praise and why that would be is beyond me as ‘Cars’ was easily one of the best films released in 2006 in my opinion, and that’s pretty much the only opinion that matters now isn’t it?  Perhaps the standards are now so high for this animation studio that simply being great isn’t good enough.  However when dealing with greatness there are still levels of it to be considered.  ‘Who’s the greatest running back?  Brown, Smith, Sanders, Payton, Simpson?  They’re all great but one has to be the greatest and one has to be the least great as well.  This brings us Pixar / Disney’s latest film ‘Ratatouille’ which is certainly as great as one would expect from Pixar and director Brad Bird, but is probably among the least great of the Pixar films.

Say hello to Remy.  Remy is a rat.  The reason rats aren’t cute and squirrels are, despite the fact they are separated by what I’m guessing is a quarter of a chromosome, is because of the tail.  One is fluffy and bushy and the other is long and skinny and nasty.  A hamster ain’t nothing but a rat with no tail and its way cuter than a rat.  I could be wrong, but I think Remy the rat is the first rat to ever be the star of an animated movie and not be portrayed as, well…. a rat – for lack of a better word.  Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) has a very refined smell and taste palette and would love to explore the magic of food.  His father Django (Brian Dennehey), who is the head of the brood of rats thinks that’s just plain silly and Remy should settle in, be a rat and eat garbage as rats are programmed to do.  Never one to conform, Remy along with his garbage loving

brother Emile (Peter Sohn), discover a cookbook by the great chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett) in the kitchen of the house the brood sometimes invades, and in between reading the book and watching The Food Channel, Remy has developed some rather divine culinary skills.  Unfortunately when the home owner finds rats in her kitchen all heck breaks loose and the rat brood is forced to flee for their lives.  Remy gets separated from the rest of the clan and finds himself in the hub of all great food, (Just ask any Frenchman) Paris, along with an imaginary apparition of the late great chef Gusteau who is along for the ride.

Remy decides to hang out at Gusteau’s restaurant which is now led by the scurrilous chef Skinner (Ian Holm) who has marketed Gustaeu’s great name to the frozen food section (horrors!).  Soon we meet the awkward and geeky Linguine (Lou Romano) who has just been hired as a clean up boy at the restaurant.  In a total accident Linguine screws up the soup to Remy’s terror who manages to fix the soup while Linguine watched in amazement just before it goes to the customers.  Naturally everyone thinks Linguine prepared the soup and this sets off the odd couple of the rat controlling the human while the human becomes the toast of Paris.  Of course there are conflicts as humans and rats generally don’t exist that well together, coupled with familiarity breeding contempt as Remy and Linguine lose and then attempt to re-discover their friendship, put behind them the fact that one is a rat and the other is an idiot and bring Gustaeu’s name back to its rightful glory.

So it is revealed to us that Linguine is actually Gustaeu’s illegitimate son, which got me to thinking who the heck was Gustaeu having premarital unprotected sex with?  THIS gets a G rating nowadays?  Ha!  Went all family values on you – didn’t expect that did you?  Anyway, Gustaeu’s lothario behavior aside, ‘Ratatouille’ is one seriously entertaining film.   Some things you just take for granted from Pixar, such as the animation being flawless and top notch, and incredible voice acting, including that provided by those we already mentioned as well as Jeneane Garafolo, Peter O’Toole, James Remar and Will Arnette are simply par for the course.  Where ‘Ratatouille’ really sets itself apart is in the humor, and not just the obvious slapstick gags, which itself was reminiscent of a ‘30’s ‘Laurel and Hardy’ film, but the clever witty stuff that is constantly coming at you and that you probably won’t be able catch completely until after multiple viewings. 

Yes, this is a great movie and will no doubt make most top ten lists at the end of the year, including mine – which is looking like faint praise so far in 2007.  So we’re clear that this is a good movie right?  It’s just that, as good as it is, it just didn’t ring that emotional bell, for me at least like ‘Finding Nemo’ did – sitting at number one on your Pixar animated films list.  Not being ‘Finding Nemo’ is no insult, as nothing is ‘Finding Nemo’.  I’m just saying.  So hear you go.  1) Finding Nemo. 2) The Incredibles 3)Cars (a tough one between the ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Cars’) 4) Toy Story 2 5) Toy Story 6) Ratatouille 7) Monsters Inc. 8) A Bugs Life.  Does that mean ‘A Bugs Life’ is a bad movie?  Of course not, it’s just the least great.  Like Emmett Smith is.  Like Barry Sanders it the best.  With all due respect to old men and their undying love for Jim Brown.

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