Addicted to novelty since 2001

Ratatouille is a Masterpiece

Last night I had the privilege to watch Brad Bird’s latest triumph, Ratatouille. It’s probably the best American animated film I’ve ever seen, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any human. It scored a 96% on Metacritic and a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here are a few choice quotes from some of my favourite critics:

Roger Ebert: This is clearly one of the best of the year’s films. Every time an animated film is successful, you have to read all over again about how animation isn’t “just for children” but “for the whole family,” and “even for adults going on their own.” No kidding!

New York Magazine: Brad Bird wrote and directed Ratatouille and tops his previous work. Since his work includes The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, this puts him somewhere between Chuck Jones and Michelangelo. He uses dimensionality the way Spielberg does: His characters seize the foreground, making you sit up like a rat catching a whiff of cheese—maybe Parmigiano-Reggiano shaved lightly over truffle-scented … sorry.

David Denby: They create each movie afresh, and some of their productions, especially this one and “The Incredibles,” both written and directed by Brad Bird, have reached heights of invention, speed, and wit not seen in animation since the work done by Chuck Jones at Warner Bros. in the nineteen-forties. In “Ratatouille,” the level of moment-by-moment craftsmanship is a wonder. Keeping the space clear and coherent may seem an odd thing to praise in an animated film, but one of the marvellous things about “Ratatouille” is how well we come to understand the geography of the kitchen in which much of the movie takes place.

It’s just movie craftsmanship at its finest. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and rent it.

19 Responses to “Ratatouille is a Masterpiece”

  1. joshnunn

    It’s probably the best American animated film I’ve ever seen

    That’s a big call. I’d say Finding Nemo still holds that title for me. Ratatouille was great, but for being such a well rounded beautiful experience, Nemo wins hands down. And The Incredibles – I have a soft spot for it’s spandex clad heroes, while rats hold no charm for me beyond what Pixar can put into them.

    I do have a theory though, that Pixar deliberately ask themselves, “what is the most difficult thing we could think of to make a movie about next?”

    Toys – inanimate objects – check
    Bugs Life – bugs… – check
    Monsters Inc. – Scare children – check
    Finding Nemo – un-expresive fish – check
    Cars – shiny soulless metal – check
    The Incredibles – ok, my theory falters here who doesn’t love superheroes…
    Ratatouille – disease carrying rats – check

    It’s like they’re looking for challenges. Their competitors keep doing the easy mark – cute animals and whatnot, but Pixar keep making charming characters out of the unlikely.

  2. Kirsten

    Yessssss. We really thought Ratatouille was the best movie we’d seen this year back when we saw it in the theatre, but it didn’t seem to get as much notice as it should (at least on this side of the pond – it’s doing great in Europe). So we’ve been telling everybody about it as well.

    It refuses to fall back on typical animated stereotypes. The writing is just plain smart. And it’s not predictable – in a movie where there’s a character pretending to be something they’re not, you usually have to cringe through an endless series of “oh no they’re about to get found out” moments. There were plenty of obvious roads the writers could’ve sauntered down, but they chose not to.

    Oh yeah, and the animated fur can only be described as “OMFG”.

  3. bobby

    Darren: Is it the best film you’ve seen this year?

  4. darren

    Bobby: Hmm…I didn’t keep a list of movie I’ve seen this year, so I can’t say for sure. On the other hand, I haven’t seen very many. It’d definitely make the top five list.

  5. James

    Have I made my case to you that Brad Bird is the most important director working today? Because I think he is. No one else is pushing popular films ahead as much. Maybe Paul Greengrass?

    Iron Giant remains my favourite of his films. I loved Ratatouille too, but I found the pacing just needed some tightening in the second act. The moment when the critic tastes his first bite of the ratatouille is simply pitch perfect, a revelation in every sense. 35 out of 37.

    I think that Bird just understands storytelling better than anyone else, and the team he works with brings the technical wizardry to serve the story better than any contemporary.

    The stories he writes are wonderfully touching without being cloying, like I find almost all other animated films, including Finding Nemo. Remove the animation from most animated films and you have a pretty thin conceit. Remove the animation and fantastical from a Brad Bird film and you have the retelling of a classic story.

  6. Todd Sieling

    I swore off Pixar films after disheartening messages implicit in both The Incredibles and Cars. These are philosophical objections, and I’ve been told that my objections don’t hold up for Ratatouille, so I might yet give it a try.

  7. Lincoln

    I thought Ratatouille was brilliant — but, as a cross-demographic piece, it wasn’t nearly as successful as almost all of the other Pixar movies. Bluntly, by the end of the film, my kids were bored, and they haven’t been during the other ones.

    I think it’s part of the natural progression for Pixar artistically, however — they see each of their pieces as an improvement (technically) on the last, and each story has been a little more subtle, and a little more rich, than the one before. I don’t think I saw this as strongly as I did in Ratatouille, but there was a definite shift from Monsters Inc. (still my favourite) to Finding Nemo, as well.

    I do still think that Cars was a sellout, to make buttloads of cash off the NASCAR crowd.

  8. darren

    Norlinda: I acquired Ratatouille through, uh, non-traditional means, so I didn’t get to see the short.

    Lincoln: I agree–it’s definitely the most adult of the Pixar films.

  9. Jack from eyeflare.com

    Yep, it’s a great movie. Fantastic artistic treatment, good storyline, high drama and even a love affair. Oh, and it even appeals to kids too.

    Ratatouille probably wasn’t the best film I’ve seen in recent years, but it ranks in my top three – Casino Royale saving the James Bond franchise from utter irrelevance is still number one.

    So, now what for animated films? How could they be further improved?

  10. darren

    Jack: I think that’s easy. Americans could make animated films that are for adults, as opposed to for kids with some adult jokes. Animation can deliver all this subtlety, nuance and wit and I’d like to see it applied to more mature themes, topics and ideas.

    Incidentally, I’m not talking about sex. It seems to me that every time I use the term ‘adult’ or ‘mature’ in the context of movies, it sounds like I’m talking about pr0n. I just mean films for grown-ups.

  11. Gar Fisher

    Loved Ratatouille too, I am trying to figure out which is better, this or my other favorite Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Every time I watch that film, I catch another sight gag that I missed before!

  12. Ryan Cousineau

    Darren: I daresay that Ratatouille was a movie for adults, far more than any other Pixar flick so far.

    Never mind that it probably did a better job of depicting a restaurant kitchen than almost any other movie ever made, or that it was yet another film where the critics loved it so much they swore adults should go see it, I had a hard time figuring out how Ratatouille, aside from a few sight gags, would appeal to kids!

    Parents with children who loved the movie are free to correct me here, but having seen and loved the film, I think it’s one animated movie where far more of the plot, dialogue, and even the visuals were for the benefit of adults than for the movie’s purported audience.

    For heaven’s sake, the climactic scene of the movie involves an visual evocation of a Proustian remembrance! The kids might enjoy it, but they probably aren’t going to get it.

    BTW, as enjoyable a romp as Casino Royale was, it was clearly inferior to Ratatouille as a film. CR had a marginally-coherent plot connected by a lot of action sequences. The love interest tale was more infuriating than intriguing, and while I’m all for a return to the days when Bond was a barely-constrained-by-his-mission murder machine, it is a bit hard to either learn from or love such a character.

  13. Phillip

    For me, Pixar peaked with “Finding Nemo.” I think their movies have become too perfect. There are no surprises. I had a hard time staying awake during “Ratatouille.” It’s technically brilliant, and the story is alright, but I was bored.

  14. darren

    Phillip: I’ve got to disagree with you on surprises in the plot (SPOILERS AHEAD). Certainly I was surprised by the subplot involving the Americanization of the dead chef’s brand and the Proustian moment with the critic at the film’s climax. The film is conventionally plotted, certainly, but 90% (and 100% of major American animated films) of Hollywood films are.

  15. Phillip

    Everybody loves this movie except me. What can I say? It didn’t grab me. It definitely has its moments, but I lost interest after the first 5 minutes and was never able to really get back into it. I’ll have to give it another chance on DVD.

  16. adrian heney

    I just watched it. Enjoyed it all the way – but the scene where the ‘evil’ food critic gets the ratatouille…. literally brought me to tears. Phenomenal, but this is what I have come to expect from the genius that brought us Iron Giant and the Incredibles.

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