Saturday 12 April 2008

Ratatouille (2007)

While I've eaten enough in Barcelona to doubt this, the best food in the world is apparently in France, the best food in France is in Paris and the best food in Paris is at the restaurant of Chef Auguste Gusteau. The restaurant is booked up for months in advance, he's a bestselling author and he's on the cover of all the best food magazines. Meanwhile in the French countryside without a mere semblance of a French accent, Remy the rat is unlike all his fellow rats. He doesn't like eating garbage because he has a seriously powerful sense of smell, and sneaks into the nearby house to watch Gusteau on the TV and to read his book, Anyone Can Cook. When he's finally discovered by the lady of the house and his colony is forced to evacuate, he finds that he can't leave without the book and so literally misses the boat.

He finds himself in Paris, led by the ghost of the newly deceased Gusteau to Gusteau's own kitchen where the new garbage boy is massacring the soup. He fixes it only for it to seriously impress a critic, thus leading Linguini the garbage boy to be hired as more than a garbage boy. When Linguini is tasked with killing Remy the rat, a friendship is born and their futures assured. Linguini doesn't have a clue how to cook but naturally Remy can't be seen dead in the kitchen, literally. The genius is in having Remy control Linguini's movements like a puppet master from the inside his tall chef's hat.

Ratatouille seems a little strange for a Pixar film. It's impeccably constructed, of course, and looks awesome. I especially adored the home of Anton Ego, vicious critic. He's a gothic dream, typing on a typewriter that looks suspiciously like a skeletal head in a huge coffin shaped room, underneath a gorgeous gothic portrait of himself. He's also awesomely voiced by Peter O'Toole. The story is tight and well told, with plenty for the kids and plenty for those of us a litle older and hopefully more mature. It's far from a bad film and it often reaches true heights of joy.

However Pixar films tend to be set almost entirely in separate worlds on the other side of a curtain from our own world, a world that the kids know exist but which we adults pooh pooh at. Of course toys have their own lives when we aren't watching. Of course monsters run a business centred around scaring us. Of course fish have their own lives in a world right next to our own. The Incredibles was something truly unique, but this one feels like a Disney film made by Pixar. The executon is all Pixar, but the story, all about talking animals not in their world but in ours, is all Disney. Some of it is wonderful, some of it is ludicrous, some of it is saccharine. I enjoyed the film but hope it doesn't set a new trend.

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