Friday, June 24, 2011

Ratatouille: The friendliest rat you'll ever meet

Ratatouille (animation, comedy, family)
Directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava
Starring the voices of Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Ian Holm and Janeane Garofalo

Disney / Buena Vista | 2007 | 111 min | Rated G | Released Nov 06, 2007

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

English: LPCM 5.1
English, French, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

English SDH, French, Spanish

Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc

The Film 5/5

Remy (Oswalt) is a young rat with an enhanced sense of taste and smell. When he saves his dad from eating food laced with poison, he’s given a job as food tester for the whole colony. Remy quickly becomes bored with the job and dreams of better things. After seeing a TV cooking show, he decides that he would like to be a chef. Unfortunately, he’s almost killed by the TVs owner and the entire colony is discovered and forced to leave her house.

Remy is separated from his family and talks to an illustration of Gusteau, the TV chef, because he’s alone and there’s nobody else to talk to. When he discovers Gusteau’s restaurant, he finds that he knows the function of every member of the staff. Remy gets into trouble when entering the kitchen, but he adds ingredients to the soup and the customers love it. He’s discovered when trying to leave and Linguini (Romano), the kitchen boy, is told to kill him. But the worried look on Remy’s face stops Linguini in his tracks and he realizes that Remy fixed the soup. The two decide to work together.

Although Remy can be understood by other rats, that’s not the case with humans. Instead, he uses gestures to communicate and is very expressive. His tiny shrugs and nods are easy to understand. Quite by accident, Remy discovers that he can control Linguini by pulling at strands of his hair. The two practice at home and come up with a plan to do the same at the restaurant. He hides under Linguini’s hat and continues to prepare food by controlling him.

The story is well thought out and quite complex in places for an animated film. The 111-minute running time is necessary to show everything in detail. The streets of Paris look real and it’s clear that the Pixar team researched the setting thoroughly.

Linguini is trained by Colette (Garofalo) and starts to develop feelings for her, but it’s Remy’s skill that wins the approval of the restaurant’s customers. Linguini is deeply resented by the head chef (Holm), who knows that Linguini is Gusteau’s son and the restaurant’s rightful owner. The problem is, Linguini doesn’t know that.

The film is full of peril, chase scenes and humor, and has a little action. The characters are well developed and Remy is easy to like. It’s challenging to make a rat appear friendly and lovable, but Pixar somehow pulls it off. Remy is always happy and smiling and chooses to walk upright on two feet. I think that was done to make him appear more like a human and less like a rat. He’s also very particular about cleanliness and washes his paws before preparing any food.

The restaurant eventually captures the attention of food critics and is visited by Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole), who is the most famous critic of them all. He’s hard to impress and had written off Gusteau’s as insignificant years ago, but decides to see why it’s become relevant again. One of my favorite scenes happens in the restaurant when Ego takes his first bite of food, but I’ll let you discover what happens for yourself.

The film has a lot of important messages. It shows us that it’s wrong to steal and that family is important. But most of all, it’s about following your dreams. Remy is a rat. How can he possibly become a chef? Even if he did, how could he succeed? I imagine that children watching the film could be inspired by Remy’s achievements. Maybe a few will grow up wanting to be chefs, and they are rarely out of work.

I can’t watch the film without thinking about Hans Landa’s speech in Inglourious Basterds where he asks Perrier LaPadite what his reaction would be if a rat entered his home. How would that differ if a squirrel were to enter? It’s true that humans often have a problem with rats, and many of us actually fear them. It’s quite an achievement to invent a rat that we like and root for as he attempts to live out his dream. 

All of Pixar’s movies are worth owning, but Ratatouille just edges out Up as my favorite. If they ever decide to do another sequel, I hope that we get another story about Remy. It’s aimed at older audiences more than the likes of Cars and A Bug’s Life, but children will still be able to enjoy it.

Well done, Pixar.

Video Quality 5/5
Ratatouille looks fantastic on Blu-ray. You can see the individual hairs in Remy’s fur and the way it beads when he gets wet. The colors are striking and the sheer amount of detail in background scenes tells you all you need to know. This is a reference quality presentation that's ideal for showing off your home theater.

Audio Quality 5/5
The lossless LPCM 5.1 track is full of subtle detail and delivers well during all of the louder scenes. Although there’s very little traditional action, your system will receive a full workout during chase scenes and when Remy is trying to avoid being captured. The sound has good depth and you’ll hear the surrounds highlight quieter effects such as vegetables being chopped or background conversation in the restaurant. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and there’s really nothing that falls short of perfection.

Special Features 3.5/5

Lifted (5:02, HD) – One of my favorite short films from Pixar.

Your Friend the Rat (11:16, HD) – Remy and Emil talk about the history of rats in an amusing way.

Gusteau’s Gourmet Game – Control Linguini and help him meet incoming orders.

Fine Food and Film (13:54, HD) – Director Brad Bird and chef Thomas Keller talk about some of their ideas for the film.

Animation Briefings

Documentary Shorts

Deleted Scenes (15:06) – Three scenes that were removed before they were finished.

Deleted Shots R.I.P. (3:12)

The Will (2:48) – With composer Michael Giacchino, featuring an alternate score for one of the scenes.

Remembering Dan Lee (3:00)

There are also five Easter eggs. Press the left button on your control while in the main menu. It works for the top or bottom item.

Ro-Dead Commercial (0:12, HD)

Yes! Shots (1:06)

How to Pronounce Ratatouille (0:55)

L’ecole Culinaire D’Pixar (1:02)

Producer Plays Trombone (0:50)

Pixar has produced some wonderful films and all are worth owning. The Blu-ray presentations are all just about perfect and Ratatouille is no exception. The film has heart and warmth and is a fun place to visit. It doesn’t have the constant action of some titles, but the story is gripping throughout. Adults will be pleasantly surprised at the depth of the story, although very small children may lose interest. That would be a shame, because I rank it as Pixar’s best, and that’s saying a lot.

Click here to find out where Ratatouille ranks among my Top 20 animated films. 

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