Directed by Brad Bird. Screenplay by Brad Bird. Released by Walt Disney Pictures.
While I liked Cars, I’ve come to think of it as my least favorite Pixar film. So I’m happy to report that Brad Bird’s Ratatouille serves as a rebound of sorts. While I don’t think I’d put it up with the first-tier Pixars (The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2), it fits comfortably into the second tier with the original Toy Story.
As we’ve come to expect, the animation not only lives up to the standard that the previous films have set, but builds upon that standard. It’s hard to describe how detailed and precise a lot of the textures in the movie are; the rat’s fur, the cobblestone streets, even more mundane things like the vegetables and, as my girlfriend pointed out, a piece of bread. And I don’t think Paris has ever looked so amazing in a movie; you’d think it was real, except that it’s somehow enhanced and better than reality can be.
The only criticism of the animation I have is that the people still don’t look as good as everything else. This is only the second Pixar film to feature people prominently (I’m not counting the Toy Story films), but the human characters in this movie aren’t as stylishly designed as they are in The Incredibles. It’s not a huge thing, but the movements of the rats are so fluid (I especially love the way Remy cowers in fear when he’s shown from humans’ perspective), while the humans move more awkwardly and video game-y, if you know what I mean.
Story-wise, the movie isn’t as tight as, say, The Incredibles, but it’s inventive and funny, and I think Remy could be a new Pixar icon. He’s a great character and a real original. I have to say, it takes some courage to make a movie about rats in a kitchen, given the primal fear that the thought evokes in a lot of people. But the filmmakers have fun with this, too, and the way the people in the movie react to the rats is always hysterical.
Finally, the short film before the movie, called Lifted, is wonderfully bizarre. I won’t so much as hint at the premise of it, but it’s very funny, and genuinely weird.