Movie Information

The Story: A rat with a passion for cooking ends up in Paris, and helps a young garbage boy become the city’s biggest chef. The Lowdown: A visually stunning animated film, Ratatouille nonetheless ends up being an overlong and predictable family film with a lot of eye candy and not much else to offer.
Genre: Animated Cooking Comedy
Director: Brad Bird
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Ian Holm, Peter O’Toole, Brian Dennehy
Rated: G

Ratatouille is by far the greatest film about a French rat who also happens to be a world-class chef that I’ve ever seen. Of course, I suppose that isn’t saying much, since Bio-Dome (1996) is the best movie I’ve ever seen about being trapped inside an enclosed, artificial ecosystem starring Stephen Baldwin. Ratatouille is the latest from Disney animation juggernaut Pixar Animation and director Brad Bird (The Incredibles), and while for many this is enough on spec to guarantee its place in the pantheon of great animated films, it is simply too deficient in the story department to be anything more than a big fat OK. This is only made more obvious by the fact that the aspects the movie does nail down are done extremely well.

First off, the movie is visually amazing (and features what is easily the best looking CGI bread ever committed to film), and the voice talent, led by Peter O’Toole, is top-notch. But there is simply too much lacking as far as character development and story are concerned. And while I can appreciate Bird’s attempt to do something different, at the end of the day, the movie simply remains a picture about a rat who likes to cook. And at 110 minutes—with a pointless, lackluster animated short tacked onto the beginning—Ratatouille, much like the previous Pixar/Bird undertaking The Incredibles (2004), it is just too long for what it has to offer.

The film follows Remy (Patton Oswalt, TV’s The King of Queens), a French rat (inexplicably sans French accent) with a natural talent for cooking, who lives in the French countryside until his colony is run off from the house they live in. Remy ultimately finds himself in Paris, outside the restaurant of the now deceased and once famous French chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett, Music and Lyrics), author of the popular book Anyone Can Cook (and all this time I thought just Yan could cook). Gusteau also happens to be Remy’s idol—and the focus of Remy’s occasional hallucinations. It just so happens that after Gusteau’s death and a bad review by cantankerous food critic Anton Ego (O’Toole), Gusteau’s once five-star restaurant has fallen into the realm of tourist curiosity and has been reduced to a microwave-dinner enterprise. Remy decides to rectify the situation by making his way into the kitchen in order to cook, but being a rodent, is quickly caught. However, the person chosen to dispose of Remy is a recently hired garbage boy with an unexplained ambition to become a cook. The boy, Linguini (Lou Romano, Cars), also happens to be the only person to have witnessed Remy’s prowess at the culinary arts, so the two decide to team up.

While the setup is there, Bird too often seems to think the striking visuals are enough to carry the film. The characters always seem to react in ways that are strictly functional to the plot (and the audience’s expectations), like when Linguini, after maybe three or four scenes of interaction with female cook Collette (Janeane Garofalo), suddenly declares his love for her out of the blue. And then there’s the fact that Linguini’s aspiration of becoming a cook comes completely out of left field. These things don’t arise from the story, only from the needs of the next plot device.

The movie should be commended for not falling into the trap of reel after reel of cheeky pop-culture references, but unfortunately the rest of the humor is uneven and most of the film’s laughs are of the unintentional kind. While kids, families and the Pixar faithful will find Ratatouille just what they wanted—and there are definitely worse animated films out right now—everyone else might just find the film a bit wanting. Rated G.

— reviewed by Justin Souther


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13 thoughts on “Ratatouille

  1. Christine

    “And then there’s the fact that Linguini’s aspiration of becoming a cook comes completely out of left field.”

    I believe you are mistaken here. Linguini never actually aspired to be a cook. The scene where he’s “ruining the soup” was an accident on his part. Linguini knocked over the pot of soup with his mop, and was trying to repair his mistake by refilling the pot with whatever happened to be there so that nobody would notice the fact that he’d knocked it over. When Remy fixes it and the credit goes to Linguini, Linguini is appalled and frightened because he doesn’t know how to cook.

  2. Gyandeep

    Mr. Justin Souther,

    No wonder you did not like ‘Ratatouille’? Anyway, that is a personal opinion, who am I to comment on that, right? But since, mountainx has given me free space to write….I’ll tell you what!

    You deserve a ‘Space Chimps’ dvd. I know you will love that kind of bullshit…..

    For once, stop reviewing animation films if you don’t know the ‘A B C D…..’ of it….When you do get acquainted with the ABCD….upto ‘R’, then you may try reviewing Ratatouille again.

    Thank you.

  3. Justin Souther

    I know you will love that kind of bullshit…..

    I kind of doubt it, but you never know.

    For once, stop reviewing animation films if you don’t know the ‘A B C D…..’ of it….When you do get acquainted with the ABCD

    Maybe you could enlighten me, please.

  4. Gyandeep Pattnayak

    How ignorant of you both!! Why does God sometimes gives the wrong people, the wrong profession (at all, if any[smirk])….?

  5. Ken Hanke

    You know, if you could get your nose out of that copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Nikita Kruschev people might be willing to discuss your points, but seeing as how the only approach you seem to have is rude, arrogant and confrontational, they’re not likely to. At least, I can tell you I’m not.

  6. Gyanddep Pattnayak

    Dear Mr. Hanke,

    I sent a reply just now, but I am not sure, it got delivered in a proper manner. Hence, am writing again. I agree I got a li’l bit extra rude. But please don’t take it for arrogance. I was a li’l disturbed when United 93 was ‘reviewed’. In my country, it was discussed, spoken about by critics but it was never once rated with stars. Hence my inappropriate behavior. But, why am I stuck. I respect your views although I support my views of the film staunchly. Let me continue my discussion in a polite manner from now on. Awaiting a reply to hear from you….and to discuss more things. And yes, I am SORRY that my anger got in the way and I just couldn’t see where this all was going. I ended up criticizing you, not the movies.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I accept your apology on the United 93 review, though I’m not sure where that discussion can really go. I’ll certainly concede to the star rating qualms. It’s a system I loathe — as do most critics. It’s also a system that readers (possibly mostly American readers) virtually insist on — presumably as a (frankly hopeless) quick reference guide. (And that is even more flawed because it’s grounded 99 times out of a hundred in a single viewing. Often 4 1/2 and even 4 star films will end up on my best of the year list over 5 star-rated ones, based on later viewings and reassessments.)

    Even so, I pretty much hold to what I said about United 93 and you’re going to pretty much hold what you said, so that discussion would likely just go around in circles. It’s ultimately a difference in opinion — something attributable to many variable factors — and should be accepted as such by both parties. As for discussing other things, I’ve no problem with that — only don’t expect 100% agreement. When you find a critic you agree with all the time, I’ll be very surprised. On occasion, I don’t agree with myself two weeks later.

    As for the Ratatouille argument. It really just isn’t very enlightening to announce that the critic is “wrong” and not at least endeavour to explain why you think that. If you think that Justin does not, in this case, understand what he’s reviewing, you should elaborate on that view, not merely be snarky about it. I assure you that Mr. Souther is actually worthy of your respect.

  8. Gyandeep Pattnayak

    I really do appreciate the viewpoints Mr. Hanke and Thanks a ton for accepting my apologies. We will go on talking movies till the end, won’t we? As for Mr. Souther, I am SORRY too….but I don’t understand how could he not like Ratatouille…..Anyway, I am not going around it again…. Thanks again, Mr. Hanke.

  9. Ken Hanke

    We will go on talking movies till the end, won’t we?

    I’m generally up for that.

  10. clkwrkred

    A bit late to comment, and the movie is nearly two years old, but I didn’t like it. I’ve now seen it three times because my fiance insists that it’s a ‘cute’ movie, and I can never get into it.

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