Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O'Toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Will Arnett
Brad Bird (and story), Jim Capobianco (story), Emily Cook (additional story material), Kathy Greenberg (additional story material), Jan Pinkava (story)
Dinner is served ... Summer 2007
In the hilarious new animated-adventure, Ratatouille, a rat named Remy dreams of becoming a great chef despite his family's wishes and the obvious problem of being a rat in a decidedly rodent-phobic profession. When fate places Remy in the city of Paris, he finds himself ideally situated beneath a restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, Auguste Gusteau. Despite the apparent dangers of being an unwanted visitor in the kitchen at one of Paris' most exclusive restaurants, Remy forms an unlikely partnership with Linguini, the garbage boy, who inadvertently discovers Remy's amazing talents. They strike a deal, ultimately setting into motion a hilarious and exciting chain of extraordinary events that turns the culinary world of Paris upside down.
Remy finds himself torn between following his dreams or returning forever to his previous existence as a rat. He learns the truth about friendship, family and having no choice but to be who he really is, a rat who wants to be a chef.
$47.027 million on 3940 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 111 min.
Release Date: 11/6/2007
• “Lifted” Animated Short
• “Your Friend the Rat” Animated Short
• Three Deleted Scenes
• “Fine Food and Film: A Conversation with Brad Bird and Thomas Keller”
• Sneak Peeks
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 29, 2007)
Here’s the lesson for today: never underestimate Pixar. Although the studio produced hits with each of the seven films prior to 2007, some questioned the prospects for that year’s Ratatoille. Anyone could deliver box office gold with a flick about NASCAR, but a film about a rat who wants to be a French chef? If ever Pixar would stumble, this seemed likely to be the culprit.
But the Pixar streak remains intact. No, the movie didn’t reach the mega-grosses of the biggest Pixar hits, but no one should sneeze at Ratatouille’s $204 million take. The law of averages dictates that someday Pixar will falter, but when they can make $200 million on a movie like this, it feels like they can do anything.
Set in Paris, Ratatouille introduces us to Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a rat with high ambitions. While the other rodents happily dine on whatever trash they can find, he prefers fancier food. He also develops a talent as a chef via the cookbooks he reads. Written by Chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett), these advertise that “anyone can cook”, so why not a rat? Circumstances separate Remy from his family, and he ends up at…
…Gusteau’s, the establishment once run by his favorite chef. Alas, the restaurant has fallen on hard times. After the place lost one of its five stars due to a vicious review from critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole), Gusteau dropped into a funk and died. This meant the loss of another star, so the three-star Gusteau’s continues mostly as a tourist trap. Current head chef Skinner (Ian Holm) sees the Gusteau name as little more than a franchise to be exploited, so he milks it for all the money he can grab.
Into this setting steps Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano), the son of Gusteau’s old flame Renata. When his mom passes, she leaves a letter that gets him a job as garbage boy at Gusteau’s. After Alfredo messes up some soup, Remy fixes it. Of course, Alfredo gets the credit for this and earns a promotion. Since he boasts no actual culinary talent, he needs help to make this work. Remy becomes his cooking guide and manipulates him on the job. The movie follows their partnership along with a mix of related complications.
When I saw director Brad Bird’s first Pixar flick – 2004’s Incredibles - theatrically, I wasn’t wild about it. However, a subsequent screening on DVD changed my mind, and I came to really embrace the movie.
My initial take on Ratatouille went along the same lines. While I enjoyed that theatrical viewing, the movie didn’t quite set my world on fire. I hoped that my second screening would open it up to me and reveal more of its charms.
But that didn’t happen. To be sure, I think Ratatouille provides an enjoyable experience. It goes with more of a character base than most animated films, and the setting allows us to dig into them – to a degree. Remy gets the best development, which makes sense since he’s the lead. I think we need more investigation of Alfredo, though, since he also plays such a prominent part. The film leaves him as little more than the hapless dork who gets lucky. We learn little o his background or much else, factors that leave him as a bit of a cipher. Since the flick’s called Ratatouille, this remains a fairly insubstantial concern, but it leaves a hole anyway.
Anyway, the characters tend to lead the events instead of the other way around, and that’s a nice trend. Too many films force their characters to react to goofy events instead of allowing the participants a substantial impact on their environments. Ratatouille balances the two sides well, and it creates an involving little universe of its own.
I just wish I could say that it enchanted me more than it does. Something about the film keeps me at a distance. During the climax, it threatens to draw me in to a more substantial degree. The big scene in which the restaurant critic arrives offers the flick’s most memorable scenes and its emotional peak, but otherwise, it leaves me a bit cold. I like the characters and take interest in the scenarios but never as more than a semi-distant observer.
And that’s where I stay. Perhaps eventually I’ll warm up to Ratatouille in a more substantial way. A lot of people seem to really like it, but a lot of people also adored Finding Nemo, another Pixar effort that never quite made it for me. To be sure, this is a well-executed effort with lots of charm and humor. It simply doesn’t do a ton for me.
The DVD Grades: Picture A+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C
Ratatouille appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Who needs hi-def when you can find a standard-def transfer that looks this good?
Sharpness remained immaculate at all times. If any examples of softness materialized here, I didn’t notice them. Instead, the flick seemed crisp and detailed from start to finish. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and I saw no edge enhancement. Source flaws were completely absent as well.
With a warm, natural palette, Ratatouille produced consistently attractive hues. The colors came across as vivid and dynamic throughout the film. Blacks appeared deep and firm, while low-light shots demonstrated nice clarity and delineation. This was an absolutely stellar transfer.
Though not quite as strong, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Ratatouille satisfied. The soundfield offered enough to create a good sense of setting. Only a few noticeably active sequences materialized. Rainstorms provided a nice liveliness, and Remy’s ride through the sewers stood as the movie’s most dynamic scene.
Otherwise, matters stayed in the subdued realm. We got some good localized dialogue, and music showed nice stereo imaging. The effects usually bolstered the ambience, with only the occasional exception like those mentioned earlier. The elements added to the movie in a general subtle manner.
I thought the quality of the audio seemed strong. Music was bright and bold, and effects fell into the same realm. Both of those aspects showed good range and dynamics. Speech sounded natural and concise, with no edginess or other problems. The movie boasted a consistently pleasing soundtrack.
When we consider all the fine Pixar special editions in the past, the minor smattering of extras here disappoints. We get two animated shorts. In Lifted (5:06), an alien force tries to extricate a guy from his house – with limited success. A clever twist on the usual alien abduction theme, this one feels like a Looney Tunes short – and I mean that as a compliment. It’s a lot of fun.
Your Friend the Rat (11:19) is new to this set. Here Remy and brother Emile detail the evolution of the rat over the centuries. It uses a style reminiscent of those semi-educational Disney shorts from the 1950s. I like the mix of visual techniques and think it’s a lively and fun way to tell us a little about these much-maligned rodents.
Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of 15 minutes, 10 seconds. We get “Chez Gusteau” (4:01), “Meet Gusteau” (6:01) and “First Day” (5:16). “Chez” offers a 3-D storyreel view of a long shot that pans into the restaurant to show us Remy’s introduction to the place. “Meet” comes from a version of the flick in which Gusteau isn’t dead. (He’s also alive in the “Chez” clip.) This is similar to the scene in which Skinner discusses frozen food marketing; here Gusteau is part of the process and not an exploited dead guy. It also develops Remy and Alfredo a little. Finally, “Day” shows an alternate look at Alfred’s introduction to the job. None of these differ radically from anything in the final film, though the lavish nature of “Chez” makes it stand out from the others. They’re interesting to see.
All of these clips come with video bits to tell us about them. Director Brad Bird chats about “Chez” and “Meet”, while producer Brad Lewis and story man Jim Capobianco discuss “Day”. We learn about the clips and find out why they didn’t make the final film. The notes about the choice to kill Gusteau are the most useful, though all of them provide good info.
A featurette called Fine Food and Film: A Conversation with Brad Bird and Thomas Keller lasts 13 minutes, 57 seconds. Here we get comments with writer/director Bird and chef Keller in separate sessions. Their remarks draw parallels between the creative techniques behind the creation of movies and food. They also chat about how they got into their respective fields and grew in them. The information can be interesting, though I think the featurette stretches in the way it attempts to connect Bird and Keller. I’d prefer two separate pieces – or just one about Bird’s work, as the info about the chef doesn’t particularly interest me.
For an Easter Egg, click down from “Your Friend the Rat” and press enter. This reveals a 61-second clip about alternate titles for Ratatouille as well as how to pronounce it. The snippet is cute but insubstantial. Another egg appears if you click down from “Lifted”. Press enter to watch an animated fake commercial for a rat poison.
The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Wall-E, Disney Movie Rewards, 101 Dalmatians, SnowBuddies and the Pixar Short Films Collection.
Through two screenings, I kept hoping I’d embrace Ratatouille, but no breakthrough ever came. I enjoyed the film and found much to like about it, but it lacked that certain kick that would allow me to really love it. The DVD offers virtually flawless visuals along with very good audio, but it skimps on substantial extras. Despite my somewhat lackluster attitude toward Ratatouille, I do like it enough to recommend it. This may not be one of my favorite Pixar flicks, but it’s still a good one.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2727 Stars
| Number of Votes: 33