Pixar is an example of everything that is right with movie making today. And one needs to look no further than Ratatouille to understand why.
Ratatouille is the newest Pixar movie from writer/director Brad Bird, who previously directed "The Incredibles" and the little seen and highly praised "The Iron Giant." For those not up to speed, Ratatouille is about a rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt) who cannot stand his rat-like existence. Having an exquisite sense of smell and a well-defined palette, he is set apart from the rest of his clan who are content eating yesterday's garbage. He knows he wants much more out of life than being the poison-checker, and he does everything possible to achieve the goal of being an excellent chef, even if that means reading chef books in the woman's house in whose walls he lives. An unfortunate set of missteps causes him to be separated from his rat brethren and in an attempt to find his family, comes across Gusteau's restaurant, which was created by his idol of the same name. After watching a garbage boy in the restaurant, Linguini (Lou Romano), accidentally butcher a pot of soup, Remy feels he has no choice but to fix it, coaxed on by the ghost of Gusteau himself (Brad Garrett). The delicious soup is accidentally attributed to Linguini and he is suddenly made chef and put under the wing of Collette (Janaene Garofalo), where he realizes the rat was the one who cooked the soup. Since Linguini does not want to lose his job, he asks Remy for his help which leads to a series of misadventures in an attempt to keep the ruse alive so that Remy can cook and Linguini keeps his job.
The premise of the movie is absolutely absurd. Not only because of the communication between humans and animals, but because there is little more disturbing to most people than a rat in the kitchen. Rats, in reality, are dirty, disgusting creatures and therefore the premise is initially difficult to buy into. Yet, everything clicks. Despite the fact that Remy can only communicate with humans using only nods and gestures, the relationship between Remy and Linguini is one of the more developed relationships in any movie so far this year. Their dependence on one another in an attempt to achieve their mutual goals is incredibly touching. Even the relationship between Collette and Linguini does not come off as forced even though the two of them were effectively forced into their situation.
Of course, the realistic relationships between the characters is not all this movie has to offer. Ratatouille has some rather intense action sequences that can easily compare to the big summer tentpoles. The reason for this is that the action serves a purpose involving characters in whose outcomes the audience is invested. Also, the outcomes are not entirely predictable. Assuredly one probably would not be able to guess the exact nature of the ending until it actually happens. This lends heavily to the suspense of the action sequences.
Yet, what really makes this movie work is the writing and direction of Brad Bird. The way the "camera" moves around is reminiscent of a live action movie and helps to bring the audience further into the story. The pacing is almost perfect and no scene really seems superfluous. There is just something about his ability to connect with an audience that makes his movies so great. So far, all of his movies have been excellent and I cannot wait to experience the next one he has to offer.
Michael Giacchino also puts up another excellent movie score to go along with his work on "The Incredibles" and the television show "Lost." The way he works in original music with what seems to be an authentic French sound is magnificent, as he is already one of my favorite composers.
Finally, the artistry in these movies continue to get better and better. The hair on the heads of humans and on the rats themselves looks so realistic that it is a marvel just to look at it. The recreation of Paris is stunningly beautiful and gives off an almost majestic aura. One cannot help but wonder how much further technology can go to keep upping the ante with more stunning imagery.
Ratatouille is an incredible film for anyone who loves the art of storytelling. There is enough in the movie for both children and adults alike to enjoy. After last year's somewhat misstep with "Cars", Ratatouille returns to Pixar's form of creating incredible, touching stories that are leaps and bounds above what other studios have been putting out as of late. Absolutely recommended.