January 23, 2008

Mini-review: Ratatouille

(CCLaP publishes mini-reviews of both books and movies on a regular basis, none lasting more than a few hundred words. Click here for the full list.)

Ratatouille, the movie
Ratatouille (2007)
Written and directed by Brad Bird

It's true, that I very rarely review or feature projects here designed specifically to appeal to kids; and that's because CCLaP was designed from day one as a destination for adults (and older teens who can handle adult topics), an intellectual's refuge from all the corporate-owned dumbification-fests these days that are seemingly always reviewing superhero movies and Disney cartoons as if they had been designed for grown-ups. That said, today I am reviewing a Disney cartoon as if it had been designed for grown-ups; and that's because it's Ratatouille, the latest creation by Brad Bird and the newly-Disneyfied Pixar Animation, the team that many would argue are the best around these days when it comes to the subject of true "family" entertainment (that is, projects that adults can sincerely enjoy on their own terms along with their kids, versus projects that adults simply tolerate for the sake of their kids).

And indeed, from the arcane title of the project to the hiring of foul-mouthed hipster stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt for the main part, Ratatouille is designed from the start to be as sincere a delight for the parents being dragged to an overbright shopping-mall theatre on a Saturday afternoon as the overcaffienated little snot-nosed monsters doing the dragging. Set in Paris and purposely recalling the city's timeless elements as to not date itself (the scooters, the berets, the cobblestone streets), the movie tells the story of refined and erudite rat Remy, who in true Parisian style is disgusted with the fact that his fellow rats are so happy (even eager) to shovel garbage down their throats. There is a fine art to food, Remy argues, and especially cooking; a good meal is to be savored, wallowed in using all five senses. And thus when he accidentally gets separated from his family in the Paris sewers one day, of course Remy would end up gravitating towards a former five-star bistro that is now down on its luck; and through the usual zaniness and logic-defiance of a typical animated family movie, thus does the rat save the bistro, melt the heart of the city's coldest restaurant critic, actualize the inner dreams of our meek young human at the plot's heart, bring love to the quirkily attractive female head chef (another Bird/Pixar staple), and even convince his brethren rats to eat fresh fruit instead of rotten and to wash their hands before every meal.

For what it aims to be, Ratatouille is absolutely perfect at achieving its goals: it is laugh-out-loud funny even to the driest of wits, visually flabbergasting in its meticulousness, and will make your freaking mom cry at the end to boot, even while preaching the fairly subversive message of holding strong to your own creative beliefs, even if everyone around you thinks you're crazy for being so "hardcore" (i.e. deliberately difficult) about it all. That's what makes Bird one of my personal heroes, after all; because he is a prickly perfectionist in real life who a lot of people in the movie industry apparently can't stand, but who has had a singular creative vision since youth that he's somehow managed to consistently pull off over the course of decades now. I'm infinitely glad to see Bird with Pixar, Pixar with Disney, and all of them now with a number of hits under their belt as a creative team; it assures that Bird and Pixar and Disney will be making movies for a long time, a thought which lifts that pitch-black cynical heart of mine just the tiniest bit. Any less of an effect on me, and I would be loathe to feature such a movie here at CCLaP; and that's why Ratatouille is one of the first such movies I've featured here, when all is said and done.

Out of 10: 10

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:35 AM, January 23, 2008. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |