A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Ratatouille

November 26, 2010

Ratatouille

This movie is an odd one. I’m not really a fan of the slapstick humor (however much it may make me laugh) or the awkward situations. This is probably the most cartoonish of all the Pixar movies. It’s full of buffoonery and broad madcap humor. But it is a Pixar movie, which means that it has a heart, and the heart of this movie is a love of fine food. It’s also a Brad Bird movie, which means that it has a lot of visual flare, and even tells the story more at times through the visuals than through the words in the script.

One thing that’s always thrown me about this movie is that although the movie is set in Paris and virtually everybody has a French accent neither of the two main protagonists sound French. They’re both very American. One of the chief bad-guys in the movie sounds English, but that’s okay because he’s the brilliant Peter O’Toole and by the end of the movie his character’s role has somewhat changed. The primary antagonist is another fantastic British actor but he does affect a French accent, with great comedic effect. (I’ve mentioned my love for Ian Holm before, right?) The romantic interest, the classy, cool and kick-ass Colette, also has a French accent – in spite of her being played by the classy, cool and kick-ass American actress Janeane Garofelo.

The story is that age-old tale of a rat from the French countryside who has a love for food and for cooking. Remy understands the mystical powers of ingredients and spices. He has a love for combining flavours. He idolises the famous French chef and television personality Gusteau, who’s best-selling work “Anyone Can Cook” is Remy’s greatest inspiration. Soon Remy finds himself in Paris, where he discovers Gusteau’s restaurant, which has fallen on to hard times due to a poor review from the famous food critic Anton Ego and Gusteau’s subsequent death.

It is at Gusteau’s that Remy discovers the bumbling but well-meaning Linguini. Linguini is an affable fool who can’t seem to hold down any job. His incompetence would have cost him his job as a garbage boy in Gusteau’s kitchen as well, but Remy is on hand to quickly save a soup that Linguini has ruined. And so an unlikely partnership is formed. Remy has the ability to cook like a master, and Linguini has the ability to appear human.

As I said before, I don’t unreservedly love this movie. It’s too heavily reliant on physical humor for one thing. I admit there are bits I couldn’t help laughing at, but Linguini’s capering got a bit much for me after a while. Indeed the entire character of Linguini grates on me a little. He’s a pleasant enough fellow I suppose, but he doesn’t really exhibit any reason for the vast good fortune that is heaped upon him throughout the film. He gets the job. He gets the girl. He gets the whole damned restaurant. Why does he deserve that, aside from the fact that he demonstrates an ability to be a reliable friend for a rat alone in the streets of Paris?

On the other hand there are a few things in this movie that really touch me. The loving depiction of food, for example, is fantastic. This is a movie that will make you hungry. It makes you want to try the dishes that Remy creates, both because of his passion for them and the way the animators have rendered them on screen. They’re just so mouth-watering. Then there’s Colette. She’s the take-no-nonsense kind of girl I enjoy seeing on screen. She’s a confident professional, accepted for her skill in the kitchen and full of sage advice for Linguini as he rises through the ranks. I don’t know that Linguini deserves her, but I wish her all the good in the world.

Finally there’s one particular scene in the movie that absolutely makes it for me. When the snide and self-centered food critic Anton Ego shows up and demands the best that the chef can come up with it is his reaction upon tasting the food that completely blows me away. This is entirely a Brad Bird moment. It’s a touching visual moment with no dialog at all that speaks volumes about the character of Anton, providing him with an entire back story in just a cew seconds, and drives home the almighty power of food. Something that Anton himself has forgotten until that moment. I cannot express how much this one moment in the film drives home the entire point of the whole movie for me – it’s a quick bit of virtuoso film-making that instantly overcomes any problems I have with the rest of the movie. I’d gladly watch the whole thing again any day for that one taste.

November 26, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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