Review: Ratatouille (2007)

Uh oh, there may be some trouble aboard the Pixar express!

Screenplay By: Brad Bird & Jim Capobianco
Directed By: Brad Bird & Jan Pinkava

I have long prided myself on being able to pull this trump card out in any discussion about Pixar, “They have yet to make anything that I would consider less than a great movie!” I can’t tell you how many times I voiced that opinion, or an opinion that was very similar, in discussions revolving around Pixar or animated films. I also liked being able to bring up my belief that Brad Bird had never made less then a great film. Ratatouille was a movie I considered great, the key word is great. That’s right, my fellow movie fans and Pixar nuts, after this latest rewatch of Mr. Bird’s third feature film I can no longer make any of the claims I previously spoke of. I can no longer spout off those claims like they were the gospel.

I didn’t realize that Ratatouille was slipping away from me until we actually hit the kitchen at Gousteau’s. Sure, the narration provided by Remy at the beginning wasn’t needed, but that was a minor slight with little actual impact on the quality of the film. Then that darn rat pulled on Linguini’s hair and I just did not buy it. This is the Pixar brain trust we are talking about here, they had to of been able to come up with something better than that, right? It’s too dramatic of a stretch, it’s an ill conceived idea that never works. The film suffers greatly because of this, and it’s a main point of the film. I was never bothered by the idea of a rat cooking food, or a rat communicating with a human. A rat manipulating a human by pulling on his hair, get that weak sauce off of my screen.

I began to get past the rat manipulating a human aspect of Ratatouille, it didn’t work, but I was able to look past it and enjoy the rest of the movie. Then a few more problems began to pop up, and they were all narrative problems, say it isn’t so Pixar? In the world of Ratatouille apparently one montage is all that is needed for us to buy Linguini falling in love with Colette, as well as her eventual reciprocation. That wasn’t enough for me, their “love story” was underdeveloped to a laughable degree. I understand that it’s supposed to tie into the theme of taking chances that is a major ingredient in Ratatouille, but I need more than one montage to believe either of those characters would take a chance on the other. Another problem began to surface in the form of the dramatic beats. Ratatouille is peppered with moments that are supposed to be dramatic, but they aren’t. They are interesting, but they aren’t dramatic. The scenes with Anton Ego prior to him showing up for his critique of Gousteau’s are prime examples of this. The direction by Mr. Bird and Jan Pinkava plays these moments up as terribly dramatic, but they lack tension and meaning so they fall flat.

At this point you’re probably thinking I’m about to call Ratatouille the first bad Pixar film I’ve seen. Not so fast buckaroos, because while Ratatouille is a deeply flawed film, it’s still good. The animation is stunning, the acting is tremendous, and I enjoyed my time in this world. Those three factors combined for a good experience with Ratatouille. I laughed a bunch and I greatly enjoyed the style of the film. I know it could have been better, but I still liked what Pixar gave me, and that is worth something.

It may seem like I am giving Ratatouille a pass because it is Pixar, but that isn’t the case. I did enjoy the film, it just so happens that the films flaws stuck out more to me than its positive attributes. I know that Pixar was aiming for so much more with Ratatouille. The final ten minutes almost reached the heights Pixar intended. Alas even those fantastic ten minutes couldn’t wash away the bad parts from the first hour and forty minutes. For the first time ever Pixar hasn’t risen to the level of greatness, and while it is a sad day for the Pixar fan in me, it was inevitable that this would happen. I certainly didn’t expect this to happen on a rewatch, I fully expected Ratatouille to hold up to my first time seeing the film. That wasn’t the case however, and now I know that Pixar is capable of making less then great films. Ratatouille tries, but it’s only good Pixar and a good film. Ratatouille is a far cry from the other works of Pixar Animation Studios and many steps down from what I consider a great movie.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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3 responses to “Review: Ratatouille (2007)

  1. Just a quick little correction. It wouldn’t be fair to credit Jan Pinkava with any of the successes or failures of Ratatouille. He’s got a co-director credit because he was the original director on the project. When he was kicked off the project he left Pixar, Brad Bird did a page one re-write and directed everything anew. I don’t dispute his getting a name credit on the film, but when you’re talking about how “The direction by Mr. Bird and Jan Pinkava plays these moments up as terribly dramatic, but they lack tension and meaning so they fall flat” it’s not really Pinkava’s fault at all.

  2. It may not be, but that’s a minor technicality to me. Pinkava started with the project, he contributed ideas (even if Bird claims to have started over from scratch he borrowed some of Pinkava’s ideas). While he may not have been in the director’s chair that day the credit he receives as a director, trying to keep the review from going off on a directorial tangent that I wasn’t feeling, and the work he did put into the film make me fine with that statement as I wrote it.

    I do wish though that Pixar had more faith in Pinkava, I enjoy his work more than Birds, he started off great but each picture from him is lesser than the one before.

  3. Pingback: Review: Cars 2 (2011) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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