Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ratatouille Review by Briana Alessio

Ratatouille Review by Briana Alessio

This Disney/Pixar film from 2007 stars a rat named Remy who wants more than anything to be a chef.  Taking place in France, he stumbles across a “garbage boy” by the name of Linguini who is working at Gusteau’s restaurant.  Linguini uses Remy to guide him in cooking, and a great relationship develops among the two.  In addition, we see a blossoming relationship between Linguini and Colette, the only female cook in the restaurant.  (Note: This week’s blog post is going to be ridiculously long, so consider yourself warned.)

Ratatouille opens in a non-traditional Disney fashion.  First we see a story about Gusteau unravel on a black and white television, which then fades to black as the beginning credits roll on-screen.  This cuts to a cottage, where we hear a woman screaming and a couple of gunshots.  As the cottage scene goes on, it poses a personal issue for me.  First of all, this film is rated G.  I feel that when you are going to bring a weapon like this into a Disney film, you should give it a PG rating, especially when there is a crazy woman repeatedly shooting at two rats.  Maybe if we heard one gunshot in the distance and did not have the rifle right in our faces, then I would feel differently about it.  It just took me by surprise in an unpleasant way.  Enough about that though.

After Remy flies out the window with the cookbook over his head, the scene freezes as he explains how he got there in the first place.  There is a laugh-out-loud worthy scene of Remy and Emile being on the roof with a piece of food, then sparks burst as they fall to the ground.  They both agree that the food tastes “lightning-y” after this experience.  We soon see what leads Remy to crash out the window, and he eventually winds up being separated from his family (no thanks to crazy lady and her rifle).  Remy paddles through a dark tunnel, and he must decide between two paths to take inside of said tunnel.  For some reason, this reminds of me the Jungle Cruise attraction in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  You know when you’re asked whether you want to go into the tunnel, and the mysterious music plays as your boat goes through it?  It is similar to me.

Anyhow, we have found out that Gusteau has sadly passed away.  His ghost becomes a regular visitor to Remy, as he instructs him as to what steps he should take in life.  Great words of wisdom for Remy are “a cook makes, a thief takes.”  Remy winds up being right near Gusteau’s restaurant (after taking the tunnel’s left hand path, mind you) and he decides to watch from the roof.  Of course, he falls through the window and we witness some chaos taking place.  His scampering around the kitchen was brilliantly executed through animation, and truly makes the viewer feel as though he is also the size of a rat, sensing the near claustrophobia and helplessness of the moment.  After all of this insanity, the chef sees Remy and orders Linguini to take him outside and kill him.  The hesitation on Linguini’s face in this scene reminds me of Snow White, when the Evil Queen orders the huntsman to kill Snow White, and instead he lets her go.  However, they of course have added humor to this scene.  Linguini decides to let Remy live, and at first Remy wants to make an escape, but soon after chooses to stick with him.

Linguini brings Remy to his apartment and they discover that by Remy sitting atop Linguini’s head and pulling his hair in different ways, he can guide him to use certain ingredients to the meal he is cooking.  After much spilling of uncooked spaghetti and red wine, they both finally get the knack of how to perform this delicate operation, which leads to success in the kitchen.  I do not want to reveal the entire film through a blog post so I will stop here.  Now let me discuss some things I loved.

There are some fantastic lines in this film from various characters.  Horst’s “I killed a man with THIS thumb”, and later proving his point by simply raising this thumb to Chef Skinner, left me in stitches.  Also quite enjoyable was the scene of Skinner’s attempt to get Linguini drunk…which he succeeded in.  Loved the line “let us toast your non-idiocy!” in addition to Linguini’s description of Ratatouille sounding like Rat and Patootie, “which does NOT sound delicious.”  Also wonderful is Linguini’s meeting with the cooks about Ego’s upcoming visit.  He accidentally reverses his wording and informs them that “appetite is coming and he is going to have a big Ego.”  Another scene worthy of a laugh out loud moment is during Ego’s visit when he informs Mustafa to tell the chef to “hit me with his best shot”, to which a restaurant guest replies “I’ll have whatever he’s having”, a nod to the 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally.

Spoiler alert: I do want to make mention of the one scene which choked me up.  This is when Anton Ego tries the ratatouille for the first time.  He is brought back to memories of his childhood, and there is a slow motion scene of him dropping his critique pen.  There is always a moment in life where we eat a delicious food which brings us back to being a carefree child.  It is a rare occurrence, but it does happen.  We then hear his emotional description of what he considers to be an incredible meal. 

Remy is voiced by Patton Oswalt.  He was a regular (Spence) on the long running TV show The King of Queens.  He also voiced a couple of professors in Kim Possible, the popular Disney TV series which ran from 2003 to 2007.  Chef Skinner is voiced by Ian Holm.  Holm has appeared in a countless number of films, including the portrayal of Ash in the 1979 classic Alien (parental guidance is so very much required for that one), and he is currently filming the series of Hobbit films.  Lou Romano plays Linguini (they look a LOT alike, especially around the eyes).  Romano is a voice actor who has lent his talent as Snotrod in Cars and Bernie Kropp in The Incredibles.  Brian Dennehy voices Django, Remy’s father, and Janeane Garofalo gives us Colette.  Peter Sohn portrays Emile; Sohn provided various voices for The Incredibles, and also directed the wonderful short Partly Cloudy.  The awesome Will Arnett voices Horst.  We also hear John Ratzenberger as Mustafa and Brad Garrett as Gusteau.  Last but definitely not least, the wonderful Peter O’Toole plays Anton Ego.  This was the best actor they could have hired for this role.  Honestly, O’Toole could read me the phone book and I would be the happiest person in the world. 

Ratatouille is directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava.  Bird has also directed Disney’s The Incredibles and Warner Brothers’ The Iron Giant.  Pinkava has worked in the animation department for A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2.  The soundtrack for this film is brilliant, especially the Michael Giacchino piece called “Le Festin” which is performed by Camille.

Although I will hopefully be co-hosting the podcast more often now, when I do blog, I want to try a segment called Five Facts.  I will list five interesting facts about the film, courtesy of IMDb.  So here goes:

1.)  A chef by the name of Thomas Keller of the restaurant French Laundry assisted the crew of this film to teach them how to cook.  Keller’s voice can be heard as a guest of Gusteau’s in the film.
2.)  The animators gave Remy 1.15 million strands of hair, while Colette has 115,000.  The typical individual has 110,000.  This is incredibly accurate.
3.)  During the scene where Remy exits the sewers, there is a barking dog.  Although only the silhouette is shown, this is Dug from the then-upcoming hit Up.
4.)  In the trailer for the film, the gentleman discussing cheeses is actually the director, Brad Bird.
5.)  The famous Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story is shown on the bridge over the Seine during the scene where Skinner is chasing Remy.

My favorite character is Emile.  There is something about his charm and wit that captures my heart.  I love that he will do just about anything for the sake of food.  Also, when Remy asks him if he detects nuttiness in a particular food item, Emile’s witty response of “Oh, I detect nuttiness” is fantastic and well done.  My favorite scene in this film takes place in the kitchen when Remy puts a pair of sunglasses on Linguini to try to hide the fact that he is asleep.  The look on his face as Colette tries to speak to him is absolutely priceless.  This reminds me a lot of select scenes from the 1989 dark comedy Weekend at Bernie’s

I feel that Ratatouille could have been so many levels of fantastic if Remy’s character was voiced by a different actor.  This is horrible to say, but I truly feel that the film lacks heart and connection because of it.  I have nothing against Patton Oswalt, but do you know how the character connects to the audience member through his voice and actions?  The animation skills are top notch, and the eyes are captivating and lure you right in.  However, the voice of Remy just leaves you feeling like it is not a Disney film at all.  This film is definitely geared toward adults more so than children.  Kids might not understand many of the jokes or understand much of what is happening.  Don’t get me wrong, the storyline is brilliant.  I just feel that with a couple of tweaks and changes, it could have been tons better and had more of a charm to it.  I did enjoy the second half of Ratatouille more than the first half.  I will definitely watch this again in the future, it is just not a favorite of mine.

My Rating:  3.5/5

The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.

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