Zombie Politics

I drank your milkshake.

Friday, June 15, 2007

You Will Believe A Rat Can Cook


Ratatouille is just as mind-blowingly great as I’d been hoping it would be. When it was announced that Brad Bird would be taking over as writer-director (after the movie languished for more than three years with little progress – the original director quit Pixar after being replaced) my excitement for the project intensified greatly. Given the rather abysmal summer movie season thus far, Ratatouille shone as the great home for some summer fun in the theater. It has delivered in all those surprising, sweet, wonderful ways that we’ve come to expect from Pixar and (more specifically) Brad Bird.

The basic premise of the film is about a rat from the country who wants to be a chef and through a series of events is dramatically relocated to the sewers underneath his favorite restaurant. That’s about all I want to tell you, and about all that the teaser, trailer, 9-minute-internet-and-TiVo-preview tell you, and that’s because the movie takes some hilarious twists and turns and its subtext and storyline are much richer and engrossing. I wouldn’t want to ruin that for a minute.

I will say that the performances in this movie are the best I’ve ever seen in any animated film. Remy the rat (voiced wonderfully by standup comedian Patton Oswald) is perhaps the most impressive animated character ever brought to life on screen. And I’m not saying that because I was dazzled by the way he looked or moved during the movie, I’m saying that because I was utterly rooting for him, lost in just how much you care for the little guy with the big, big dreams.

At the end of the credits, there’s this logo that’s something to the effect of “100 % Motion Capture Free: No Short Cuts to Performances Here!” which was kind of a bold, upfront proclamation. A lot has been said in the animation community recently about just how “animated” animated movies are if they use performance capture (the technology of using actors’ performances to aid in the animation process. This has been used in recent films like Polar Express, Monster House, and most controversially Happy Feet, which won the Oscar over Cars, a movie that instead used actual character animation. I loved how in-your-face this was, even if it was tucked away at the end of the credits, especially because Disney just acquired Robert Zemeckis’ new performance capture studio, possibly for the long rumored John Carter of Mars project.

[See Conan demonstrate motion capture, hilariously, here.]

The film is prefaced by a unique teaser for Wall-E, Pixar’s animated movie from next summer which sounds just as intriguing and unique as Ratatouille: it’s about a garbage collecting robot on a desolate Earth in the far future who falls in love. Yup. Pretty weird. Pretty amazing. The teaser is just a brief introduction by the film’s director, Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) where he talks about the project before being shown some brief visuals and the film’s logo (with the chirpy, electronic “Wall-E voice” saying his name). This movie’s going to be a tough sell but once people realize how special it’s going to be, there shouldn’t be any problem. Then there’s “Lifted,” a hilarious but too-brief short about a kind of driving school for aliens, except it’s not cars their driving but people they’re abducting.

By the end of the movie if your heart isn’t filled with absolute joy, you probably should get checked out – you’re a robot. Brad Bird solidifies his place as one of the greatest living filmmakers with this film, staging action sequences with the wit and dexterity of Robert Zemeckis and using the camera as well as Alfonso Cuaron or David Fincher (much of the movie is seen from Remy’s height). The way he writes, the way he cuts, it just left me breathless and totally engaged. This movie lives up to every expectation I had and surpasses all of them. Ratatouille is a new classic – and you’ll savor every minute.


Blogger bob said...

absolute joy is correct....fucking amazing film....

9:17 PM  
Blogger Radio Free Burke said...

This movie ruled my mind. I have to see it a few more times, but it may surpass The Incredibles. It's definitely the most beautiful computer-animated movie yet released.

1:09 PM  

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