Plot Remy (Oswalt), a country rat, has an exceptional sense of taste and wants to be a chef in Paris. When he meets inept human Linguini (Romano), newly installed on the bottom rung of top chef Auguste Gusteau’s restaurant, they hatch a plan to bring Remy’s creativity to the table.
Describe the plot of Ratatouille to most and they’ll likely turn up their nose as if assaulted by a bad smell. It’s about a rat who yearns to be a chef. That’s not cute, that’s not flip and postmodern. Couldn’t we make it a giraffe who wants to play golf, or a hippo who dreams of being a stunt-hippo, or a gerbil who aspires to play lead guitar in a heavy-metal band (please note, second-tier animation studios - these concepts are copyright Empire)? What’s cool about a rat in a kitchen? Isn’t it, like, kinda gross?
Au contraire, mes amis. After five minutes of Ratatouille you start getting excited about the time when you can buy it on DVD to use as life therapy, like a soothing bath or a dose of Librium. It may be Pixar’s masterpiece, but why quibble over niceties when they keep delivering stories this rich?
Even amongst the Hawaiian-shirted big brains of the Pixar think-tank, Brad Bird is taking on an auteurish hue for the fabulousness of his creations (The Incredibles being the last).
He remains intent on interpreting the foibles and grace notes of the species to which he belongs, even if it is through the medium of a rat. His latest quest is to decipher the soul of an artist who rises from the lowliest place: quite literally the sewer. Remy, not content to eat garbage like his brothers, has the very un-rat-like urge to soothe his palate with extraordinary tastes. He is a gourmand and, having spied the cooking programmes of famed but recently deceased Parisian chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), is now entranced with the idea of creating transcendent meals that mix flavours like the giddy riffs of jazz. Gusteau is of the opinion that “anyone can cook”. And a rat is listening.
To Remy, humans are an inspiration (“They taste...” he marvels. “They discover...”). To humans, Remy is vermin. A complicated state of affairs, especially when fate washes the talented rat into Paris, right next door to the late Gusteau’s classy eatery, currently suffering a downturn in fortune. Vulpine food critic Anton Ego (a character designed with Peter O’Toole’s Gothic tonsils fully in mind) has been less than favourable, but Remy is drawn to the bustling kitchen like a pilgrim to the Holy Land.
Impeding his nascent greatness, apart from being a rat, are Gallicly tempered and vertically restricted head chef Skinner (Sir Ian Holm), and Remy’s sceptical rat-father (Brian Dennehy), who is determined he pursue more rat-like endeavours (like eating garbage). But as Brad Bird has it, art will out. Remy is slave to his own genius.
Scampering fretfully among the whirling ladles, carving knives and angry spurts from the gas burners, his delicate nose sniffs out the insulting scent of compromised soup and he can’t help but risk life and paw to remedy the dish. To leave it would be a sin against his soul.
The answer to his troubles is to go undercover, or under-toque, in cahoots with the supremely untalented new garbage boy Linguini (Lou Romano). This presents Bird and his animators with an awkward challenge - how does their world actually work? Their answer is anthropomorphic sleight-of-hand. Remy doesn’t talk: well, he does, but only in rattish, and it just so happens that we’re fluent. Linguini, his partner, doesn’t. All this bumbling fool can make out are the tinny squeaks of rat-kind. To confer the rat-chef’s talents to his goofy human sidekick, Bird goes one fictional step further, making Remy capable of operating a human being by tugging his hair follicles like puppet strings. The animated are now doing the animating.
It’s an inspired concept, transforming the cooking sequences into astonishingly animated slapstick homages to Mack Sennett, Buster Keaton and, in keeping with the French setting, herky-jerky French farceur Jacques Tati (a kind of proto-Bean), as Linguini is manipulated to concoct paradise in dish form.
Appropriately, this is also a riff on Cyrano De Bergerac, replacing one large-conked poet’s adoration of his cousin Roxanne with a large-conked foodie’s adoration of haute cuisine; both being forced to use an imbecilic intermediary. In one further really-shouldn’t-work device that Bird slips without a care into the spinning narrative, we have the portly Gusteau as a floating figment of Remy’s overactive imagination to chivvy the little fella along. Remy, like many European artistes, is a whisker away from madness.
It’s farce and poetry both, able to make thrilling gearshifts from poignant characterisation into madcap as the film spills onto the streets to create chase sequences worthy of Chuck Jones or Fred Quimby. Visually, nothing is beyond these guys. From the fineness of Remy’s fur to the rain-slicked cobbles of the City Of Lights, they somehow grant synthesised surfaces the textures of life. Yet, the animation is at once extraordinary and hardly the point. So deft is the hand of Pixar that you are allowed to take their raptures of detail for granted - the incidental art is slave to the story. Pixar are not really animators at all, but storytellers par excellence whose carving knife happens to be a computer mouse.
By the third act, the standard recipe would be for Linguini to be de-toqued, the diminutive hero exposed and the villainous Skinner to be felled. That, though, is just one of the plot strands Bird has woven. Amid the flurry of impeccably timed disaster, Anton Ego will emerge from his coffin-shaped parlour to test this unforeseen turn-around at Gusteau’s and prove a salutary lesson for any critic as to their own worth. “Surprise me,” he sneers to the waiter, with the kind of disdain normally associated with Lady Bracknell or Daily Mail readers. So fully have you sunk into this animated world, so blurred are its joins with real life, that the resulting dish (designed with the help of hip chef Thomas Keller) lifts the film to rank alongside Babette’s Feast, Big Night or Ang Lee’s Taiwanese trilogy as literally mouth-watering. Although it rather takes the Happy Meal tie-in off the agenda.
It is impossible not to read Remy as a straight metaphor for Bird or Pixar as a whole. They are unable to let the soup sour when the perfect mix of flavours can be reached. But the message may be more democratic - not everyone can be a great artist, but true art can come from anywhere. Bird is an artist who looks deep into humans (even in rat form) and sees something magic. His films feel like gifts.
Ratatouille Released: 11 February 2008
We get deleted scenes with introductions from Bird, including a long tracking shot around the restaurant and into the kitchen, like the one from GoodFellas in reverse; another has Skinner chatting to a not-yet-deceased Gusteau.
A Conversation With Brad Bird And Thomas Keller is a misleadingly titled featurette that splices together two separate interviews, highlighting similarities in the working practices of the director and superchef - interesting, but it doesn’t give much insight into Keller’s contribution to the film. That’s supplemented by other short featurettes on Paris and the characters, and some child-friendly fun in Remy’s Incredible But Edible.
Glorious short Lifted, in which a slimy little extra-terrestrial tries to pass its alien abduction exam, may be familiar to you already if you caught Ratatouille at the cinema - if anything, it’s almost better than the main feature it accompanies. Finally, Your Friend The Rat is a ten-minute-long, tongue-in-cheek PR film for ratkind, chucking in stop-motion, 2-D animation and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from a cute little robot named Wall-E. All good stuff then, but there’s not nearly enough on the making of the movie - disappointing, but perhaps not too surprising given Ratatouille’s turbulent production history.
Verdict That feeling you have as you leave the cinema - that buzzing in the fingers and lightness in the heart - is called joy.
apart from a slight dip in form with cars, pixar are fantastic story tellers and amazing animators. this is quite possibly the best of the lot and leaves you feeling completely full of joy after watching such a well crafted movie. pixar constantly raises the bar for itself time and time again, and all i can say is, bring on the next big hit ... More
I'm siting in my PC chair shocked at what Empire have written. I feel the animation film market has excelled to such a place that I didn't think there was a place for films like this anymore.
In Ratatouille you have a Rat that wants to be a chef. Totally original I accept but not really going to grab the imangination of your children who simply wont relate to this.
Although I have accepted that the story is original the plot simply mirrors a format that everyone has seen before - an unexpected... More
]Having watched this for the first time last night, I'm surprised to be left feeling a little underwhelmed, yet I've no idea why, for there was nothing clearly wrong with it. Perhaps my expectations were raised to unrealistically high levels by the seemingly unanimous fawning response from critics...
]There is much to like here, the quality of the work obvious to see. The animation is faultless; this is undoubtedly the most finely rendered CG cartoon ... More
A simple tale, perfectly watchable and beautifully animated. However, lacks the wit, warmth and verve of Pixar's previous efforts with too few jokes or memorable characters to sustain the disappointingly straightforward story. (6/10) ... More
I don't understand why this has received such glowing reviews. It was predictable and cliched, and not funny enough.
Why do the rats in Paris have American accents?
Why does the young chef have an American accent?
Why can the rats read english but not speak it?
And whats with the chef ghost!?! If they cant get the plot to move forward without a chef ghost/apparition that talks to rats to explain everything then they really should try a little harder.
And pulling hair to co... More
A good film, yes. Classic, as per Empires 5 star review? Not a chance. Technologically speaking, it is astonishing, in particular the water effects. But i'm afraid neither the story nor the characters engaged me. In fact the only interesting character (and indeed the only one to have any emotional impact with me) was the food critic. Bought to life, with just the right level of pomp and conceited self superiority by Peter O'Toole, his humbling by the most basic of dishes, the Ratatouille of the... More
I remember hearing about this film back in 2005, as it was another rat film in production along with Flushed Away. Haven't seen that one, but this film, if it were a dish would be the most delicious food I've ever tasted and have me asking for seconds.
Everything from the stunning animation, to the odd but inspirational plot(the juxtaposition of a dirty rat wanting to cook in a clean kitchen), the engaging characters, some hilarious slapstick moments(like when Remy's making Linguini move so h... More
In short I would say this is another great Pixar movie. I really enjoyed it only Pixar could make me feel for a RAT. Had me laughing out loud at quite a lot too. I really did not think I would like it judging from the trailers but it was great. ... More
Interesting comments so far. I feel the need to respond to some of them.
Let's get this straight. No this isn't the best Pixar film. Yes it is better than Cars but that wasn't that bad.
Is the animation the best ever - yes I think it is. People talk about the scenes of Paris but they are just background. No diifferent to the matte paintings of old. The really impressive bits are the awe-inspiring sewer scenes. The most difficult thing to animate has alwa... More
I enjoyed this film a lot. As others have said, you stop marvelling at the animation after about 5 minutes of "Oooh - look at that water!" - and you are left with a very funny film. Exciting, optimistic without being too sacharine and a new story told well. Pixar's greatest moments for me have been Toy Story and, above all, The Incredibles. It's not quite there, but it's only a whisker away. ... More
Loved this to bits. Pixar have excelled themslves once more. This film made me want to go back to paris for a few days. The animation is amazing, the storyline is brilliant and it is just what you want for pure good fun entertainment. ... More
Typically top quality Pixar fare but best ever? I think it's down the list personally but that is by no means a negative considering their consistent brilliance. Cars was a bit of a worry (although not as bad as I was expecting) so it's a relief to see them back on form. This movie is funny, exciting and touching - but aren't all of their films? ... More
The animation in Ratatouille is stunning. However, this is almost secondary to the rest of the film. The sheer strength of the voice-acting, along with great characterisation, allows us to truly emotionally invest in the characters. This, coupled with Brad Bird's unswerving devotion to telling the best story possible, gives Ratatouille a rare level of emotional depth, rendering it heartfelt and moving.
However, that's not to say that the action is neglected. Seamle... More
Here's my review of Ratatouille, taken from my website, kinnema.com - where this week you can also read my thoughts on hed Away, and Story 1 & 2.
touille ird, US, 2007) /b]
king de Bergeracent comedy, Pixar reveals the soul of a poet trapped in the body of a computer animated kids flick. p;
Everybody loved to see an empire, no matter how mighty, get its comeuppance...so when arsink] pranged the first dent on Pixar’s hitherto unassailable reputation, there was an i... More
I thought it was pretty good. Way better than cars but not better than any other Pixar movie.
As someone who dabbles in 3D animation and modeling, I have to say the animation in this movie was just jaw-dropping stuff.
I agree. It has to be one of the best movies (animated or otherwise) that I have seen in a while. ... More
The best film in years and gets better and better with repeat viewings. Best "acting" in yonks, beautiful shots and dispite whats been posted here, it is very funny! The sad thing come awards season itl be merely written off as a "cartoon", this is Best Film material and hopefully will be rewarded rightfully. ... More