Tuesday, January 3, 2017
As my last review indicated it would have been hard to top the marketing exercise that was Cars for sheer suckiness. I think Cars actually had a few people wondering if Pixar had lost the magic. Ratatouille would prove that they hadn't.
The idea is as off the all as anything they'd done in the past. A rat that likes cooking and can actually perform as a chef in a 5 star Michelin restaurant. That Brad Bird was involved should also not have surprised.
Remy, the cookery inclined rat kind of reminded me a lot of an old Warner Bros cartoon. In that one a musically inclined mouse lives in a house and plays the piano whenever he can. The household cat finds him and chases him. Eventually the owners of the house think that their cat can play the piano. The ruse is eventually exposed and while they can't perform outside of the house the householders enjoy beautiful music privately (the cat cannot play piano, but he is a whiz on the drums).
A series of events lead Remy to Paris. We know we're in Paris, because pretty much every shot from inside a house or apartment gives an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower. Apparently in films and cartoons no matter where you are in Paris if you can find a window you can get a really good view of the Eiffel Tower.
Not only does Remy wind up in Paris, the home of the world's best cooking, he lands at Gusteau's, the chef he most admires. Gusteau is long dead, but his restaurant still survives and Remy is guided the ghost of Gusteau, although even this 'ghost' is at pains to point out that he is actually a figment of Remy's imagination.
Also recently arrived at Gusteau's is a rather awkward young man by the name of Linguini. Linguini is actually the illegitimate son of Gusteau and is therefore entitled to inherit the restaurant. Something that the diminutive, oily head chef Skinner does not want to happen, he's close to getting the restaurant himself and also launching a line of fast food frozen products bearing Gusteau's name and likeness.
Linguini can't cook, he's initially hired as the kitchen's garbage boy, but Remy can and with the rat's help Linguini becomes a famous cook and also falls in love with the restaurant's driven junior chef Collette. Also with Remy's help Linguini inherits his birth right and Skinner who knows about Remy tries to bring the whole thing undone on the night that world famous critic and Gusteau hater Anton Ego visits. It doesn't work because Remy's ratatouille is the best thing Ego has ever tasted since his mother's ratatouille, the very thing that started his lifelong love affair with food.
The backgrounds really brought Paris to life. During the chase scene my wife and I were watching and saying 'we've been there!', 'yeah, I remember that too.' As with his previous Pixar film The Incredibles, Bird didn't attempt to make his people lifelike, they were caricatures. The artists picked a feature (Skinner's height, Linguini's gangly frame, Collette's nose, Ego's sunken eyes) and made that the focus of the character. The rats were also quite cartoony, which meant that they didn't really move like actual rats, but anthropomorphic versions.
Remy and Linguini were likeable multi layered protagonists in the way that the shallow Lightning McQueen wasn't, and while they bounced off other characters there was no need to add in a laboured comedy relief character to detract from the facts that your main character isn't interesting or likeable.
Whatever it was, it all worked in every way that Cars didn't.
Patton Oswalt wasn't as well known as he now is when he did Ratatouille and voiced Remy, but I honestly can't think of anyone else who could have done better. I'm a big fan of The Goldbergs and now every time I watch the show and hear Adam's voiceovers I'm going to see a large rat.
Brad Garrett, who had previously been the puffer fish in Nemo's tank was Gusteau and with the fake French accent was almost unrecognisable.
Brian Dennehy was cast as Remy's uncouth father, and they gave him the right amount of size to immediately put the viewer in mind of the well known character actor.
Janeane Garofalo played Collette and this tied into the unconventional romantic leads that the actress was known for at the time.
John Ratzenberger had his now obligatory cameo as Mustafa, the head waiter at the restaurant. The French accent masked his normally distinctive voice.
I know Peter O'Toole voiced Anton Ego and he did a good job, but I think this role was written with Vincent Price in mind, he even looks like Vincent Price, who as well as being an actor was also a gourmet chef. It's just a shame he had been dead for over a decade when they made Ratatouille.
This was going to be a hard one to top.