Ratatouille review

            There are several long-time traditions, or tendencies, of vintage or classic Disney animation features in the latest Pixar film. Whether this is a sign of Pixar’s submission to the overshadowing animation forefather or pure coincidence is all but irrelevant. What is important in viewing Ratatouille is the way these familiar themes, archetypes and plot devices are made unique. These are the qualities that each of the films of Disney’s vintage period used to inhabit easily, and something that was missing from animation prior to the arrival of Pixar. Ratatouille isn’t the first attempt of the young studio to take on a storyline more reminiscent of the old Disney tradition of basing the film around a distinct location and a particular animal family (Finding Nemo), nor is it the first animated film under Disney’s name to take place in the sparkling world of Paris, France (The Aristocats), but the film still manages to feel distinctly original.

             This isn’t even the first time that Disney has used rats, although it is certainly original in the fact that these rats are given remarkable detail and also happen to be dealt with in most inappropriate location of a restaurant kitchen. When we first join our protagonist rat, Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), he is fleeing a small country house clutching a cook book, proving a perfect visual representation of what the entire film will be about. Remy is a slightly lonely rat even amongst his family of rats as the much appreciated food inspector, given his ability to smell the slight nuances in food that may contain rat poison, mostly because his deeper appreciation for food is not shared by anyone surrounding him. When the incident of the opening scene occurs and Remy is forced to escape through the sewers he finds himself separated from the rest of the rats, and once washed into Paris he finds the restaurant once owned by the author of his beloved cookbook, Gusteau, a man who had believed that anybody had the ability to cook. Remy decides that this is his fate, and he is helped along when a collaboration becomes possible between the rat and a lowly kitchen assistant named Linguini (Lou Romano), hired only because of his apparent relation to the late Gusteau.

            The kitchen that Remy has stumbled into is a marvelous new world to him, masterfully animated with realistic accuracy that strives to make the environment breathe a life of its own, with an energy and dangerous life of its own. Even though the kitchen is a collective group of individuals, including Horst (Will Arnett) a man who spent time in prison for whatever imaginative story he decides to tell from day to day and Colette (Janeane Garofalo with one of the most indulgent French accents of the film) as the brash lone female in the kitchen and Linguini’s inevitable pair in romance, the film is really about the relationship Remy and Linguini form in each attempting to navigate through this intimidating new world.

            There is no denying the spectacular advances in animation while watching Ratatouille, especially in comparison to the 1970 Disney film which also took place in Paris, The Aristocats. Both depict the iconic images of Paris, although the Paris of Ratatouille seems to understand the magic of animation, as it sparkles with more quaint beauty than it ever could in real life. The kitchen atmosphere also offers an assortment of animation opportunities, whether the detail in the food or the glimmer in the tools, even down to the hairs on the rat’s head, but the subtle and wise decision that Ratatouille makes is to end the realism where humans are concerned. Time after time animation with realistically depicted humans has done nothing more than disturb and turn-off audiences, whereas ratatouille happily turns the characters into caricatures with surprisingly rodent-like features. Ears that stick out and long noses are common on the faces of many characters, including Linguini, but the most rat-like behavior belongs to the restaurant’s new chef, Skinner (Ian Holm), a man whose small stature requires him to scurry up a small ladder in the same way Remy scurries around the kitchen on available items.

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