Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 7/9/07 w/ Additional Edits.
Known for his work in animation for such films as The Iron Giant and 2004's Pixar-animated film The Incredibles. Brad Bird is considered to be one of the best film animators for Pixar and Disney. In 2007, Bird returns with his third directorial feature about a rat who dreams of becoming a chef entitled Ratatouille. Directed by Bird and Jan Pinkava based on Bird's script with additional story credits to Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Emily Cook, and Kathy Greenberg. Ratatouille is about a rat in Paris who wants to be a chef. Helping a garbage boy to become a chef with the help of his late idol, they must contend with the changes of the restaurant as its head chef sells out to make Gusteau's name profitable with frozen foods. With a voice cast that includes Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Ian Holm, Will Arnett, James Remar, Brian Dennehy, Pixar regular John Ratzenberger, and the legendary Peter O'Toole. Ratatouille is a marvelous yet imaginative film from Brad Bird and Pixar Studios.
For all of his life as a rat from the French countryside, Remy (Patton Oswalt) longs to be a chef as he has a gift of smelling exotic foods and herbs. While he lives with a colony of rats including his older brother Emile (Peter Sohn) and their father Django (Brian Dennehy). Remy wants to cook as his hero is the legendary Chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett) who has been inspirational in the art of cooking. During an attempt to steal food, the house owner discovers rats as the colony flee while Remy gets lost during his run. Landing in Paris and with Gusteau's spirit revolving around him, Remy arrives at Gusteau's famed restaurant that is now run by his former sous-chef Skinner (Ian Holm).
Arriving at Gusteau's restaurant is a young man named Linguini (Lou Romano) who becomes the cleaning boy for the restaurant. During a mess-up, he tries to fix the soup forcing Remy to take control as he finally gets the soup to be good as he's discovered by Linguini. Realizing that this little rat was the one who fixed the soup and had cooking talent, Linguini takes him in while Skinner is wondering about Linguini as Gusteau's restaurant is getting excellent reviews again. Skinner has Linguini to be taught by one of the restaurant's chefs in Colette (Janeane Garafalo) who teaches him how to act like a chef as Remy pulls Linguini's hair to control his movements. With Remy taking control of Linguini, they help restore some of the lost acclaim of Gusteau's restaurant as it reaches the attention of the notorious food critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole).
After finding his old colony, Remy reluctantly leaves to help Linguini though he gets visits from Emile and other rats for food. Yet, Linguini becomes infatuated with Colette as his family secret comes out much to the delight of the press and Skinner's dismay. When Ego wants to return to Gusteau's to see if the restaurant's hype is true, Linguini feels intimidated. With Skinner discovering about Remy, it takes a few people and a colony of rats to help out Remy and Linguini to win over Ego.
The concept of a rat wanting to become a great chef in Paris restaurants is one that is definitely universal to all audiences. It's a concept that the film's original director Jan Pinkava had been trying to create for years until being replaced by Brad Bird who uses Pinkava's core story to create a film that is unique. Bird's script and direction is truly a marvel about a dreamer who wants to prove that his gift for smelling great food and cooking talents shouldn't be limited because he's a rat. While it's clear that being a rat, especially in a restaurant is a bad thing to chefs. Yet, it's the story about a chef that wants to cook that really shows the heart of the film.
Bird's knack for drama and comedy is wonderful, especially physical comedy concerning not just Linguini but also Skinner during a chase scene he has with Remy. It's humor that isn't dirty or too clean but one that is universal to all kinds of audiences. Through his direction, the film has a unique look through its animation that it has a nice balance of drama and comedy. The drama is told with subtlety in themes of family and loyalty. Yet, the film is really about dreamers as there is no character that is loveable as Remy.
The animation is unique, largely due to the original sculptures and concept of Jan Pinkava. Each character has a unique look to their personalities from the human characters including Anton Ego who looks very cold and such or Skinner, a small man with a devilish face. The animation and visual effects is very wonderful without having the audience recognize whose face is the voice. Something that some computer-animated films make the mistake of like in Shark Tale. The animation is also brilliant in the way it captures the look of Paris.
Cinematographers Robert Anderson and Sharon Calahan along with production designer Harley Jessup create a wonderful look to Paris where it has a feel and look to the city that is imaginative. While it's more colorful to the some of the more live-action films that show Paris, it just has a look that will make anyone want to visit the place. Even the look of the food including the dishes look delicious. Editor Darren T. Holmes brings a wonderfully rhythmic feel to the film to create an energy and style that brings excitement to the film's humor and drama. It also has moments of intensity through moments of action that is not seen much in most animated films. Sound editor Michael Silvers also does fantastic work for the film's sound with the sounds of pots, fires, and everything that is expected in a kitchen.
Then there's the amazing film score of Michael Giacchino. Easily one of the best film scores this year, Giacchino's score definitely has variety. Whether it's the serene sounds of Paris through accordions to more comical scores that has jazz notes and rhythms. Even the original song he wrote for French pop singer Camille is memorable for the atmosphere that is Paris. Giacchino's score is filled with flourishes of orchestral arrangements to convey the drama while mixing it with jazz for the film's more intense action sequences.
The film's cast is wonderfully assembled with memorable characters along with cast of actors for the voices that are unique. Smaller roles ranging from Pixar regular John Ratzenberger as head waiter Mustafa, Will Arnett as sous-chef Horst, James Remar as appetizer chef Larousse, and Teddy Newton as Skinner's lawyer are all memorable with their witty humor. Notably Ratzenberger as the nervous Mustafa and Arnett as Horst who has extravagant claims about his behavior. Dual performances from Julius Callahan and Tony Fucile are great with Callahan playing fish chef Lalo and Skinner's businessman Francois. Fucile does double duty in playing pastry chef Pompidou and the health inspector called upon by Skinner. Another dual performance but for smaller parts come from director Brad Bird as a narrator of cheese and as Ego's assistant. Jake Steinfeld also has a wonderful small part as Git, a beefed up rat who is one of Emile's friends.
Brad Garrett is great as the voice of Gusteau with all of his witty charm and inspirational wisdom with an accent that fits the personality of Gusteau. Ian Holm is wonderful for the devilish Skinner who sells out the name of Gusteau to make money when his own plans are derailed. Holm just brings a lot of humor to the villainous character. Janeane Garafalo also goes French as the tough Colette who believes in perfection and everything that lives up to the Gusteau name. Garafalo is funny and sweet in her voice portrayal. Lou Romano is great in voicing the young, clumsy Linguini who knows he doesn't have talents while trying to find his niche in the restaurant he's working for. Peter Sohn is very funny as the rat Emile who pretty much likes to eat anything while causing trouble for Remy.
Brian Dennehy is excellent as Django, Remy's father who tries to understand his son's gift while revealing his own mistrust towards humans and stuff. Dennehy brings the right sense of fraternal comfort and realism to that character. The legendary Peter O'Toole shines in what has to be one of his best voice roles as Anton Ego. While his voice might be recognizable to cinephiles and adult audiences, O'Toole truly brings a coldness and humorless that is the character of Anton Ego as a man who loves food, but like isn't good enough for him. It's a fantastic performance from the legendary actor. Patton Oswalt is great in the voice of Remy bringing a great mix of humor, drama, and sensitivity to a character dreamers can relate to. Oswalt's voice-over narration also works in how he observes the situations and everything including how he interacts with the spirit of Gusteau.
While it's definitely superior to some of the Disney/Pixar releases like last year's Cars, Ratatouille is definitely not just one of the best Disney/Pixar films but also the year's best family film. Brad Bird and company truly made a film that kids will definitely enjoy as well as older audiences. It's funny, it's got a great look, it's got some nice drama, wonderful action, and everything that guarantees its entertainment value. In the end, Ratatouille is a superb yet gorgeous film from Brad Bird and Pixar.
Pixar Films: Toy Story - A Bug's Life - Toy Story 2 - (Monsters, Inc.) - (Finding Nemo) - The Incredibles - Cars - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - (Finding Dory) - (Cars 3) - Coco - Incredibles 2 - Toy Story 4 - (Onward) - Soul (2020 film) - (Luca (2021 film)) - Turning Red - (Lightyear) - (Elemental (2023 film)) - (Elio (2024 film)) - (Inside Out 2) - (Toy Story 5)
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