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In this day and age of meaningless ultra violence, torture porn horror, cynicism and heavy handed messages, one is bound to yearn for something else, something sweet, simple, and delightful. Ratatouille delivers on all of that in spades. Pixar has a knack for delivering exceptional fares, and although last year's Cars (2006) was disappointing, their track record is amazing. With this last fare, Pixar has surpassed Incredibles, The (2004) and, arguably, did even better than Finding Nemo (2003). This movie is also important in one other respect: it confirms a new force in cinema, writer director Brad Bird. With his third film, he has proven himself as a talented writer with an uncanny understated sweetness, and a fiery director with a great sense of rhythm, comedy and drama.
Remy is a rat... But not any rat. He is a maverick in his large family, preferring gourmet fares over garbage, and possessing an incredible nose and taste buds. He feels completely out of place and yearns for a world where who he is will not be regarded as an impediment to what he could do. You see, Remy wants to cook, and he has a natural ability to be a super Chef, if only he weren't a rat. After an accident that throws him in the sewers, he finds himself in Paris near the restaurant of his personal Hero, Chef Gusteau who's personal mantra is that anyone can cook.
This is a wonderful American movie full of American values. It's about how it doesn't mater who you are, or where you come from, as long as you have talent and the will to shine. The traditional, and idealized, values of the American dream are at the foundation of this story. As the pompous turned earnest critic says in the end: "not everybody can be an exceptional person, but an exceptional person can come from anywhere". The message is told through actions and not words. You get to witness the development of a true genius through himself, his fears and doubts, and through others, both rats and humans, friends and foes alike. This is a character study in a society full of prejudices, as he overcomes all odds to be who he wants to be, and do what he loves to do.
Technically, the film is fearlessly flawless. The animation is incredible and you have probably heard a lot already about all the nuances of rat fur the film puts on display (wet, fluffy, rough, dry, frizzled...). But beyond that, the animation is fantastic, putting so much life into rats and humans alike. The camera work is also very imaginative, sometimes moving so fast and effortlessly as to make you dizzy. This is a film with several action pieces that truly stand out. The art direction is very detailed and realistic. The music is good and effective to technically highlight what you see on the screen, although the lack of a strong memorable melody will ultimately make it forgettable. The actors are also all fantastic.
At the end of the film, you may be tempted to get back home, and give the next rat you spot around a chance. Well, OK, i live in New York City, so i see many rats. This is such a delightful film that brings back a sense of enlightenment that generally only children experience. It will please kids, and delight parents with a witty script that delivers.
- Laurent Hasson