Tuesday, 22 January 2008

DVD: Ratatouille

Lowdown: There’s a rat in the kitchen.
With some films, the idea they’re based on is so weird that you sort of don’t expect much of them. In some cases, however, they surprise you and you end up saying to yourself “how come they didn’t think of this before”. Well, Ratatouille is one of those cases, and almost naturally it was Pixar that thought of it and made this computer animation film.
The idea is simple: Where is the last place you would like to see a rat in? The kitchen. Therefore, let’s take a rat, make a successful chef out of him, and try and fit it all in a film. And since it all revolves around kitchen action, let’s set it all in France – culinary heaven.
Thus we follow the story of Remy, a country rat with a good taste that wants more out of his food and his life than his fellow rats. Obviously, he read Who Moved My Cheese and he knows that change is the way of the world, but will he survive change?
Through his cooking adventures he gets separated from his family and finds himself in Paris, where he stumbles upon the restaurant of his favorite yet now deceased human chef. Unable to resist temptation, Remy sneaks a peak: he sees the new garbage boy messing around with the soup and ruining it, so he feels obliged to sort things out. One thing leads to another and Remy ends up cooking multiple Michelin stars quality stuff when all the humans around the place think it’s the garbage boy that’s doing it.
Slowly but surely the plot develops and challenges pop left and right: can the human being garbage boy truly befriend a rat? Can a rat forget his ratty roots and do the right thing by our homo sapiens eyes? Can the people around accept the change that is brought through the new star chef?
The film works very well, thank you very much. It is very entertaining and by far the most enjoyable new film I got to watch for a while now: the animation is superb, the ideas developed by the filmmakers that utilize an environment of cooking rats are ingenious, and the plot flows along engagingly. There’s also the usual pop culture reference stuff that now plagues most animation films in the shape of a James Bond like chase scene, but it’s actually done well.
Still, as brilliant as Ratatouille is, and it is brilliant, it is not perfect either. It suffers from the usual American film syndrome: everything is always either black or white; there’s no gray in between. One second the rat and the boy are best friends, the next they hate one another, and the second next they’re back again. And so on, and so on. Sure, Ratatouille is a kids’ film, and as such we should expect simplicity and your average regular dose of value preaching, shouldn’t we? Well, I think we shouldn’t. There’s nothing wrong with presenting the gray to kids: it’s real and it’s in there and they should get used to it. It can also be done in a very nice and creative way, which I’m sure the Pixar talents could formulate if they put their minds to it. Besides, I’m not a kid and I watch the film; do I not deserve quality?
Best scene: The rat and the boy open up to one another for the first time. The scene is shot both from the rat’s point of view and from a person’s point of view, which is very original and works very well. It’s both touching and funny.
Picture quality: Faultless. I don’t think one can expect more of the DVD format.
Sound quality: Wow! Incredible use of the surrounds to create an experience where the viewer feels right in the thick of things. This is the reference all films should follow!
Also worth mentioning is Lifted - the short clip that accompanies the main film on the DVD, to the best of Pixar’s tradition. It’s directed by Gary Rydstrom, probably the best sound designer to ever walk the face of the earth. And it shows.
Overall: If there ever was a DVD that is worth purchasing, Ratatouille is the one with production values that are second to none. Me, my movie collecting days are over; I just enjoy watching as many films as I can, and Ratatouille is all so very enjoyable indeed.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

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