What can I say about Pixar? It’s the leader in CGI animation. It’s the company that started it all and eventually drove traditional hand-drawn animation out of business. Almost every time Pixar presents a new movie, it’s bound to be a success critically and financially. And their movies not only excel in terms of technology, but they also have lovable characters and the most interesting stories often based on ideas that may seem strange at first.
That is also true in Pixar’s latest film, Ratatouille. It’s about a rat named Remy who has an extraordinary talent and tremendous interest in cooking. Surprisinly (not!), his father, Django, being the leader of the gang, strongly oppose Remy’s fondness of humans and their exquisite cuisine. He thinks that there is no way humans and rats can exist together peacefullly, because humans will kill a rat by all means when they see one. And judging by the fact that an old lady nearly tore her house apart just to kill Remy and his brother, Emile, while they were tryingt to steal spices for Remy’s cooking experiment at the beginning of the movie, Django is right. But when Remy accidentally separates from his family and finds himself in Paris, his destiny calls for him. Remy’s hero is a Parisian chef, Gusteau, who has died after a harsh review by food critic Anton Ego. With an imagined Gusteau by his side, Remy is encourage to start his career as a chef when he teams up with the garbage boy, Linguini, at Gusteau’s restaurant. Linguini relies on Remy’s talent, conjures up delicous dishes, and puts Gusteau’s restaurant in the spotlight again. The new chef in charge, Skinner, is very unhappy about this development and is suspicious of Linguini’s skills. After he learns about Linguini’s identity, he wants to get rid of him for good. Meanwhile, Anton Ego never believes in Gusteau’s philosophy of "Anyone can cook" and demands to review Linguini’s cooking, trying to bring down the thriving restaurant once again…
Who would have thought a movie about a rat who likes to cook can be so fun? Yes, the basic storyline is simple, but Pixar has the ability to make it interesting enough to hold the audience’s attention for 110 minutes. There are even a couple of "action sequences" to keep us on the edge of our seats! The credit belongs to Brad Bird, the director and writer of Ratatouille. Bird is fast becoming one of my favourite directors with his involvement in earlier seasons of The Simpsons and The Incredibles, another Pixar production that is in my DVD collection (He also did the voice of Edna Mode, who was hilarious in that movie).
The animation by Pixar is still the best in the business. From the night lights of Paris to every single hair on the rats, the painstaking details of the graphic make it look realistic and natural. What I love about Pixar’s character design is that they reflect the creativity of traditional animation, unlike the Japanese Final Fantasy series, which set out to create characters that look as much like real humans as possible. People in Ratatouille come in all shapes and sizes, but they are still appealing to the eyes. Maybe because they looke more like the characters in a traditional cartoon, exaggerating but smooth movements do not seem strange in the film. This doesn’t mean that they don’t look real. In fact, together, all these element make us forget that we are watching an animated feature sometimes and just sink into the world created by Pixar.
Another thing I like about Pixar is that the animated roles are always the centre of attention, rather than the hollywood stars that do the voice. Well, in the case of The Toy Story movies, I still had Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in my mind when I heard Woody’s and Buzz’s voices. But in recent Pixar movies, they employ actors based on the quality in their voices, not their publicity status. Remy’s enthusiasm, Linguini’s meekness, and Anton Ego’s aloofness could all be heard. I found out that Brad Garrett did the voice of Gusteau after I’d seen the movie, and it never occured to me that it was him behind the screen. The characters come before the stars. That’s how an animated film should be.
Many people may find the idea of a bunch of rats running around in the kitchen disgusting. Director Brad Bird took care of that problem by showing the rats washing their hands and cleaning themselves before touching the ingredients. However, the sight of an army of rats could still be alarming to some. But Ratatouille has that old Disney magic, which can make rats cuddly creatures and leave anyone feeling good when they walk out of the theatre.
NOTE: All photos Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc / Pixar Animation Studios. All Rights Reserved.