Directed by Brad Bird
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 111 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, 2.0 stereo English
Release Date: November 6, 2007
Review Date: October 30, 2007
The wit and intelligence behind the stories and especially the dialogue in a typical Pixar film have no equal in the cutthroat world of computer animation. Other studios’ films may win the feature animation Oscar (surprisingly only Finding Nemo and The Incredibles have netted Pixar the feature animation prize), but none of the other studios ever seem to be able to achieve the uncanny blend of sight and sound that is uniquely Pixar. And once again, the studio comes through with flying colors with Ratatouille, the latest in their long line of winning animated confections.
And “confection” is the right word in this case since the story of Ratatouille revolves around a cooking rat. Yep, lovable Remy (Patton Oswalt), after being separated from his family, finds himself in the kitchen of once five star restaurant Gusteau’s. Due to the death of its founding chef and the new chef Skinner’s (Ian Holm) unbridled ego and dictatorial ways, the once proud eatery has lost two of the stars from its rating. With a few dashes of spices and herbs, Remy turns a soup into something craved by all, and credit for the concoction falls on clean-up boy Linguini (Lou Romano). Once Linguini and Remy learn how to communicate so Remy can make him into a master chef, the restaurant’s reputation for fine food takes off, enough that critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) decides to return to pen another critique of this new miracle worker.
The key comic moments in the film all revolve around keeping the secret of Remy’s talent from those who might upset the apple cart. Naturally the haughty Skinner smells a rat (pun intended), but Remy must also deal with his goofy brother Emile (Peter Sohn) and father Django (Brian Dennehy), neither of whom understands why the garbage they usually forage isn’t good enough for Remy. There’s also an ambitious female chef in the kitchen, Colette (Janeane Garofalo), whom Linguini flips for and whose presence must be dealt with in times of great stress in the kitchen.
Pixar has lavished the usual incredible production values on the movie with stunningly detailed surroundings for both the rats and the humans. Paris has rarely looked more beautiful or appealing in some of these animated shots, and following Remy on his various excursions through the Paris sewers and behind the walls of various establishments reveals points of view that we humans rarely get to encounter. Like all Pixar product, the animation is so lush, so thoroughly intricate and exquisitely rendered that it’s often hard not to want to stop and just look at these frames as true artwork. Having just watched Meet the Robinsons with its beautiful animation, one realizes seeing Ratatouille that the Pixar craftsmanship on view is like the difference between high school and college coursework. Pixar does it more fully and with greater attention to detail and complexity.
The voice cast is also simply wonderful. Oswalt’s Remy is adorably wide-eyed and sweet while Holm overacts like fun as the grasping Skinner. Peter O’Toole sounds like he’s having the time of his life as the sneering food critic, almost daring anyone to please him. Brad Garrett does the voice of restaurant founder Gusteau who continues to be Remy’s Jiminy Cricket-like conscience throughout the film. You’ll also hear veteran character actors James Remar, Will Arnett. John Ratzenberger, and director Brad Bird voicing other characters in the movie.
Brad Bird’s direction offers some stunning set pieces. Among my favorites were Remy’s sewer adventure, Remy’s wild excursions all over the Gusteau kitchen during his first entry there, and the climactic cooking sequence with hundreds of rats on display. All of these astonishing events show mind-boggling animation at the zenith of its artistic effectiveness.
The film’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio is delivered on this DVD in a gorgeous anamorphic transfer. As with all of the Pixar transfers, the animation is stupendously detailed, so much so that you feel you could reach out and stroke the individual hairs on the bodies of these rats. The film has a more muted color palette than, say, The Incredibles, but that doesn’t make this transfer any less appealing. Everything looks pristine and beautifully rendered, as once again, Pixar animation offers up another reference quality DVD. The film has been divided into 31 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack is a thoroughly engaging affair with music and sound effects pumped through all of the channels as necessary and also directionialzed voices where appropriate. The rear surround channel, often an afterthought in other EX transfers, is made expert use of here with a steady stream of sound issuing from it. Again, Pixar does things right with the marvelous blend of sounds both expected and unique.
“Lifted” is the Pixar short which accompanied Ratatouille in theaters, and it’s simply hilarious as an alien taking driver’s ed uses trial and error to manipulate his spacecraft. Think Looney Tunes meets Close Encounters for this highly enjoyable 5-minute romp (also with a most effective Dolby 5.1 EX soundtrack). It’s a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer.
“Your Friend the Rat” is an 11-minute featurette that features Remy and Emile amusingly discussing how rats have aided mankind through the years. (Yes, they step gingerly around the bubonic plague problem.) This anamorphic short could easily have been a segment on the old Disneyland program to go along with shorts like The Truth About Mother Goose or Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom which found homes there.
“Fine Food & Film” gives us 14 minutes of director Brad Bird and master chef Thomas Keller discussing (individually) how they run their respective domains showing how true leaders can persuade an animation studio or a kitchen staff to do their best work. This is also presented in anamorphic widescreen video.
Three deleted scenes, none in finished form but rather in sketches or mock-ups with the vocal track attached and music from the soundtrack serving as background, are on the disc. Brad Bird explains the elmination of the first two while producer Brad Lewis and writer Jim Capobianco discuss why the third scene didn’t fit the film.
Ratatouille continues the winning tradition of Pixar’s legendary animation team. The film is fast, funny, and unique. The DVD offers exemplary quality of presentation for the home viewer and is most certainly highly recommended.