I must admit that from the moment I first heard about this Pixar film I was abnormally indifferent. I can’t explain exactly what it was that kept me from the theaters, but this is the first time I missed a Pixar film in its original release. I like rats, so it wasn’t the subject matter. Perhaps the unpronounceable title is to blame. I will admit it conjures nothing for me, so I found it hard to get excited about what I might see. This is rare, because I have eagerly awaited these outings based not only on the story idea but knowing it will be a treat in every aspect from design to technological wizardry. So finally I sat down to watching this elusive Pixar presentation for the first time on DVD. I have to say my instincts were almost right on. This is by far the least interesting entry from the Pixar folks so far. Which is not to say the film is bad or not somewhat entertaining. It doesn’t stand out. This could have been Dreamworks or Sony or a dozen other CG workshops. The only thing that stood out was the quality and detail of the work.
First the story:
Remy’s a rat doing the things that rats do best including rooting through garbage cans for food. He has a refined sense of smell which allows him to identify all of the ingredients in his food, most fortunately the presence of rat poison. His talent is good for the colony’s survival, but that’s not enough for Remy. He wants to be a chef. Separated from his colony by a gun totin’ granny, he discovers he’s been living under
Pixar has made yet another grand leap forward in CG animation. Textures have never been better. Hair is nearly photo realistic, affected brilliantly by its environment. Water elements like rain and a river look better than anything before it. All of the movement is smooth and fluid. There is almost more detail to be found here than you can possibly take in in just a sitting. Reflective surfaces blew me away. The humans are the only element that lacks much improvement. They are fine, but I am not fond of Pixar’s approach to their human characters. They look modeled more on the Warner cartoon style than anything realistic. All of that might be fine; this is a cartoon, after all; however everything else looks so darn realistic.
While this is not as bad a story as I expected, it lacks the usual Pixar charm and warmth. The cooking angle just never worked for me and the puppetry under the hat was simply too silly to accept. None of these characters are compelling. In previous Pixar films we were presented with a world we would love to visit if we could. For the first time, Pixar took me to a place I had no interest in seeing again. The technological achievements are unmistakably Pixar. The tale is rather dull and could have come from any studio at all. The voice acting was fair. Patton Oswalt did a rather nice job of bringing Remy to life. Peter O’Toole was rather a surprise as food critic Ego. I would never have recognized him at all. Truly one of the better voice acting performances I’ve heard.
Your Friend The Rat: Made specifically for the DVD. Remy and his brother give us a rather interesting history of the rat. The animation is actually a crude style like something out of Monty Python, but works well. This piece is both educational and amusing. I particularly enjoyed the rather lengthy disclaimer at the end.
Lifted: This is the alien abduction trainee film that opened Ratatouille in theaters.
Deleted Scenes: Brad Bird provides some setup for these three segments, which appear in various forms of pre-production status. None of these were necessary pieces and serve here only as a look into the editorial process
I really would have liked a little more behind the scenes stuff here. This is slim pickings for a Pixar film. Perhaps they were as interested in the film as I was.
It’s true that Pixar at their worst is still as good as anyone else at their best. Let’s face it. It was inevitable that sooner or later even Pixar would fail to hit the mark. I easily forgive this descent into mediocrity and look forward to Wall E. This next film promises to be darker and more adult-oriented, but I suspect Pixar won’t forget the kids. I’m sure the film will deliver the punch lines. Oh yeah: “I’m detecting nuttiness ”.