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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 13.79%
Average: 8.05%
Pretty Bad: 1.15%
Total Crap: 1.15%

8 reviews, 39 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"A Decent Meal That Leaves You Hungry Five Minutes Afterwards"
4 stars

After years of hailing Pixar as the end-all, be-all of animation entities, they hit a roadblock last summer with the stunningly unengaging and overlong Cars. The artwork was still top-notch but the sounds that came with it sputtered to find any humor or excitement past a plot recycled from Doc Hollywood and countless other big-city-boy-in-a-small-town films. I suppose us big, bad critics were waiting for the other shoe to drop, presenting us with the opportunity to tear down the monster we helped support. As is such the case sometimes with the disgruntled egos of filmmakers, the critic becomes the target and is an integral part of the next film’s villainy. But in a twist of fate that Roland Emmerich and M. Night Shyamalan could learn from (after learning to make good movies first), Ratatouille ultimately finds the perfect ingredient after meandering in-and-out of different courses.

Remy the rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt) has been blessed with the similar skills of one Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. His unique sense of smell taps him into the undiscovered pleasures of individual cuisines unyet collided into a glorious mix of flavor. But his talents are put to greater use by his rodent clan as a poison whiffer. After a sewer escape separates him from his family, Remy ends up in the streets of Paris guided by the spirit of his human mentor, legendary chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), who died after receiving a bad review from the hard-to-please critic, Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole).

Allowing his nose to lead the way (with a little help from Gusteau), Remy discovers the chef’s famous restaurant whose kitchen has been taken over by a sniveling little taskmaster named Skinner (Ian Holm). After watching clean-up boy, Linguini (Lou Romano) accidentally ruin some soup, Remy goes to work repairing it in all manners of dish-and-dash. When it becomes an instant success the garbage boy gets the credit and is asked to repeat his recipe. Although not being able to communicate verbally, Linguini discovers this is no ordinary rat and Remy, in one of the film’s more clever concoctions, begins to use the hapless kid as his personal string puppet to live out his dream.

There’s much more to Ratatouille though then a pixelated recreation of the food network and, for once, it actually works against its best intentions. Between Skinner investigating a loophole in Gusteau’s will, Linguini taking a liking to fellow cook, Collette (Janeane Garofalo) and Remy’s family conspiring with him to commit the kitchen’s cardinal sin (“don’t steal food”), the narrative strains in developing so many errant teaspoons and doesn’t know where to stop. As the film shifts focus midway through to Linguini, we lose valuable touch with an interesting protagonist in favor of the underdeveloped and borderline caustic bundle of nerves. And the longer we spend wondering whether we’re rooting for the kid or bothered by his pillaging the credit, the quicker the leaden denouement is upon us.

Ratatouille has a wackier premise than Brad Bird’s more sci-fi/action equipped entries, The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, but it’s not going for Looney Tunes type dementia. It’s multiple chase sequences don’t achieve the slapstick mentality it’s reaching for since most (save for a late scooter pursuit) have a repetitive quality that is beneath Pixar’s previous standards. As if enough ingredients haven’t already dissolved, Ratatouille’s greatest asset for watering appetites never achieves the kind of euphoria you imagine its patrons are experiencing for themselves. Remy & Linguini throw a lot of stuff into pots, but we never linger on their scrumptious colors or sense the aroma our stomachs should be grumbling for. To the best of our knowledge they’re just recreating the same stew that Jerry the Mouse used to poison Tomcat into becoming a giant Jekyll.

The best food movie of all time, Big Night, provided a running commentary on the crassness of commerce vs. the beauty of creating something lasting and still being able to bulge one’s eyes in the lushness of something they’ve never tasted before. While a little more of this could have gone a long way to supercede Ratatouille’s other shortcomings, Brad Bird does deliver a final thought that encapsulates things so beautifully that, for the moment, I forgot about all it’s problems. While there’s certainly a selfish aspect to appreciating a filmmaker finding the balance to what critics do, I can’t recall anyone (in the movies or the screening room) putting their finger right on the pulse or why most critics find passion in such a thankless profession. The fact that the monologue is delivered so gracefully by Peter O’Toole adds the necessary poignancy to the ingrained mantra the film has been mixing in the whole way.

“Anyone can cook,” is Gusteau’s motto and it’s a lovely sentiment for the dreamers out there just as the absence of the word “well” at the end of it conjures up a cynicism that not everyone was meant to do everything. Just because your last name is Ratner it doesn’t mean you have the chops to live up to Gusteau’s sentiment. Brad Bird does though and creatively this is a step back for him. His affection for retro styles of animation remains tried and true but Ratatouille has the unfortunate distinction of being the first Pixar release after the disasterous Cars and becomes more of a reaction than a fresh start. How else to take the tale of a world renown chef destroyed by a nasty review and the desperate attempts to return his restaurant to its former glory by having a rat pull the strings as a silent partner to appease said critic with a taste of his childhood? This critic certainly didn’t melt over Ratatouille, but there’s enough to enjoy in the artistry and its final hope for new discoveries to applaud the outcome even if its just a polite applause until the flame goes out.

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originally posted: 06/29/07 14:00:00
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User Comments

6/06/18 bored mom The ultimate allegory for great artists pursuing their dreams. Remy is the best! 5 stars
1/06/15 Mario is the Best Not as good as most of Pixar's other movies. 3 stars
9/11/12 marta gilson I can watch this over and over and over 5 stars
10/19/11 Magic Essentially perfect in every way. Lighting, script, cinematography, character design, yeah. 5 stars
3/31/11 TG A truly enjoyable family film. Will make you want cheese. 5 stars
10/24/09 Alex71 A routine is established for rest and play. , 5 stars
10/23/09 Alex41 Democratic Party candidates as a partisan publication. , 4 stars
10/16/09 Billy cute 1 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. if you're on a diet, don't watch this. :P 4 stars
9/08/08 Carol Durbin I absolutely love this movie and watch it often with my son. Awesome!!! 5 stars
8/15/08 Shaun Wallner My daughter loves this movie! 5 stars
3/04/08 Matt Raises the bar and stands out as the best animated film ever. Remy's the man! 5 stars
2/10/08 pixie dust More quality animation from the curent masters, a cute gem 4 stars
12/29/07 David Cohen The first Pixar movie that did not make me laugh once 2 stars
11/09/07 Charles Tatum Strong, but long, Pixar 4 stars
10/24/07 William Goss First Pixar film to appeal to the soul rather than the heart, and it works. Kudos, O'Toole. 4 stars
10/21/07 katsat There is so much to love about this film. A masterpiece! 5 stars
10/01/07 Jason great movie! 5 stars
9/02/07 Mindyh This movie has everything a great animated film has. 5 stars
8/13/07 katsat Amazing on so many different levels - my favorite Pixar film ever. 5 stars
7/20/07 Pokejedservo What can I say? This is another great Pixar film... 5 stars
7/15/07 Jason it was a really great funny movie 5 stars
7/11/07 Tiffany Losco my daughter loved this movie. So cute, and funny 5 stars
7/08/07 critic's critic This review is more about you showing off than about the movie. 5 stars
7/08/07 Russ Gladchenko An excellent movie for the everyone. I've enjoyed almost every Pixar movie made to date. 5 stars
7/07/07 AnnieG Excellent film - seems to be more for adults than kids. 5 stars
7/06/07 Mike J Best film from the best film studio out there 5 stars
7/06/07 Crispin My 6 yr old daughter and I both loved it. My humorless wife merely enjoyed it. 5 stars
7/05/07 stepalone Magnificient 5 stars
7/04/07 PamE Terrific film. Pixar does it again Way to go Patton Oswalt 5 stars
7/03/07 laura bennett loved it..... 4 stars
7/02/07 Mr X Another Pixar blockbuster, nuff said. 5 stars
7/01/07 BritishKnights Bird's story was written and finished before Cars was released, do your research! 5 stars
7/01/07 Dark Enchantress the best disney-pixar movie ever! I loved it! 5 stars
7/01/07 Sano Pixar has cooked up a charming treat of a movie! 5 stars
7/01/07 Faimen At the end of the film, my son turned to me and asked "Can we buy this?" Says it all. 5 stars
6/30/07 Ole Man Bourbon Easily one of the best films this decade. 5 stars
6/30/07 Quigley Amazingly delicious Pixar film. These guys make the best movies these days, hands-down 5 stars
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  29-Jun-2007 (G)
  DVD: 06-Nov-2007



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