June 26, 2007

Ratatouille.

"After last year's Cars, Ratatouille is a return to form for Pixar - a boisterous ode to culinary delights, artistic inspiration, egalitarianism, camaraderie, family, and Paris, marrying unparalleled CG splendor with humor that's part classical Disney cartoonishness, part Jacques Tati-style physical drollness," writes Nick Schager at Slant.

Ratatouille

"Pixar manages to achieve something that few other big Hollywood films do these days: a convincing reality. The body language & emotions of the characters, the machinations of the kitchen, the sights and sounds of Paris, and the dice of the celery, Ratatouille gets it all right, down to the seemingly insignificant details." So begins a must-read entry from Jason Kottke, referencing Meg Hourihan and Christopher Alexander's concept of the "quality without a name," put forward in his book, The Timeless Way of Building, and wondering out loud how director Brad Bird got the characters "(especially the rats)" acting more realistically than many actors in live action films.

Updated through 7/3.

"Ratatouille is Pinocchio for foodies," enthuses New York's David Edelstein. "It's Anthony Bourdain and Bill Buford with chases. Jaw-dropping chases: With a hero who's a rat and enchantingly light on his feet, the space is endlessly subdivided. The world is constantly opening up and whizzing by. Now we're dropping to the floor, flipping under a table, bursting through a crack, racing along a pipe... Bird clearly knows the great silent clowns: The slapstick he devises is balletic."

Earlier: "June 29."

Update, 6/27: Bird "deserves to be considered one of the most inspired storytellers at work in American movies," writes Scott Foundas in the Voice. "With Ratatouille, he takes the raw ingredients of an anthropomorphic-animal kiddie matinee and whips them into a heady brew about nothing less than the principles of artistic creation."

Updates, 6/28: "Brad Bird offers a luminous third feature act on the heels of his equally superb Iron Giant and The Incredibles and firmly ensconces himself as Hollywood's animated film laureate," writes Neil Morris in the Independent Weekly. "Here, the Parisian setting is the film's appetizer, an enchanting first course before an entrée of complex, even poignant life lessons."

"Although Ratatouille is a technical delight, right down to the texture of a freshly chopped red onion, there are times when its story falls surprisingly flat," writes Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper. "For all its technical wizardry, Pixar's chief achievement has been at the level of elementary storytelling.... Bird, by contrast, has taken sole writing credit on his two Pixar films, and they don't seem as finely honed."

For the Austin Chronicle, Marrit Ingman talks with Janeane Garofalo "about art, food, some spoilers from the film Variety anticipates will be 'a gastronomical success worldwide,' and why Christopher Hitchens and Ann Coulter are like Anton Ego, Ratatouille's evil critic." Also, a quicker chat with Patton Oswalt, the voice of Remy (pictured above).

In the Los Angeles Times, Susan King talks with Bird about how, when he took over, he rewrote the script and "re-rigged" the rats.

"Ratatouille moved me to tears because it was just so well-done - not kinda cute, not OK-for-a-kids'-movie, but a work of art crafted with as much passion and attention to detail as its hero, Remy the rat chef, puts into every vat of soup he makes," writes Dana Stevens at Slate. "And the animation, oh, the animation. Every hair in Remy's coat, a shimmering field of blues, grays, and greens, appears to have its own life.... I have no question that Ratatouille will be both a great critical success and a durable children's classic on DVD. But I wonder whether it will draw summer audiences to theaters in the numbers it should."

Online listening tip. Brad Bird and Patton Oswalt are guests on Fresh Air.

Updates, 6/29: "Ratatouille is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "It provides the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies at their best have always promised."

"One of the great pleasures of Brad Bird's Ratatouille - just one of many in a picture that is itself about the rewards and the frustrations of seeking pleasure - is its inherent lightness, the way it seems wholly unaware that it's a grand achievement of animation, even though it is," writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. "Bird is one of the great modern animators - as well as an astonishingly gifted filmmaker, period - precisely because he doesn't set out to wow us."

"In addition to ranking among the greatest animated films in recent years, Ratatouille is a foodie movie on par with Big Night, and puts the first original spin on the Cyrano story since Steve Martin's Roxanne," writes Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle.

"If we are living in a golden age of animation - and we are - one of the reasons is writer-director Brad Bird," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times, where Susan King talks with Oswalt and Garofolo.

Tasha Robinson at the AV Club: "Ratatouille never hits the heights of The Incredibles, if only because it's operating on a much smaller and less mythic, culturally resonant stage, but it's solid enough to prove that Bird hasn't let success, critical or otherwise, go to his head."

It "will certainly be the best comedy of the year," claims Charles Mudede in the Stranger.

Update, 7/1: "Why are so many animated features bursting with wild imagination, coherent characters, glorious visualizing - all we should expect from film - and 'real' movies aren't?" asks Time's Richard Corliss. "[A]nimation directors don't get the respect they deserve," he argues, and quotes Brad Bird: "An animation director has never been nominated for best director. Ever. People don't understand what directors of animated films do."

Newsweek's David Ansen: "Brad Bird, the unconventional creator of The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, has come up with a film as rich as a sauce béarnaise, as refreshing as a raspberry sorbet, and a lot less predictable than the damn food metaphors and adjectives all us critics will churn out to describe it. OK, one more and then I'll be done: it's yummy."

"God bless Pixar for doing it the hard way," writes Bryant Frazer. "There's a new wave of banal, aggressively condescending talking-animal cartoons being shoveled out of the Hollywood CG-image factories these days, but Ratatouille is everything those films aren't and it's nothing that kids raised on lowest-common-denominator cartoon pablum expect."

Updates, 7/2: "It wasn't the home run launch of Pixar's biggest successes, but Ratatouille left Walt Disney Co's Pixar Animation Studios with an enviable Hollywood streak: eight movies, eight hits." Josh Friedman reports for the Los Angeles Times: "The G-rated tale of a young rat who dreams of becoming one of France's finest chefs took in $47.2 million in US and Canadian ticket sales to easily rank No 1 for the weekend, according to Sunday's studio estimates."

"Remy will succeed partly by emerging as an anti-Mickey and partly because the big guy has taken him under his arm," writes Troy Patterson after racing through a brief history of rodents on screen. Also at Slate, "Brad Bird, Animation Auteur," a slide show from Josh Levin.

Online viewing tip. "CG food has the potential to look... really disturbing?" Cooking up CG Food. Via Jason Kottke.

"Ratatouille is sweet and charming and I had a grin on my face and laughed throughout, but what does that really tell anyone?" wonders Daniel Kasman. "So perhaps I'll try to approach the movie from a different angle: Brad Bird's Ratatouille is the first Pixar film that feels like a studio film and not an event picture. If that doesn't sound like praise I assure you it is."

The other night, Jürgen Fauth and Marcy Dermansky pretended they weren't reviewers and had a grand time: "The crowd roared, gasped, and applauded on cue, clearly enjoying the ride, giving itself over to the movie. Like redeemed food critic Anton Ego (voice of Peter O'Toole), we were delighted not to be holding our pens. From where we were sitting, rumors of the death of the theater experience have been greatly exaggerated - as long as the movie's any good."

"I have seen 'serious' films that feel less believable than this fairy tale," writes Tom Hall. "Ratatouille is a tremendous accomplishment; An animated fable that feels more painstakingly true to life than most movies dare attempt."

Update, 7/3: Noel Murray at the AV Club: "[M]y only significant quibble with Ratatouille is that I don't think Bird really believes in the movie's most prevalent theme: 'Anyone Can Cook.' A cynical person might even say that Bird waves that theme around to quiet some of the outcry about The Incredibles, and to distract from the fact that Ratatouille says, essentially, the opposite."



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Posted by dwhudson at June 26, 2007 7:55 AM

Comments

Great read on this, thanks David. Can't wait for this one, after seeing a preview with Brad Bird introducing it at Wonder-Con a few months ago. Oh, and Patton Oswalt - voice of the rat protagonist (ratagonist?) - was there as well, and as a huge fan of his work as a stand-up, well, that's some inspired casting. Anyway, it's gotta be more interesting than Cars (yawn).

cp

Posted by: Craig P at June 26, 2007 8:26 AM