Ratatouille (The Walt Disney Company/Buena Vista Pictures, G)

rat2There are enough unexpected anti-selling out, pro-being a loner, pro-having an open mind messages that are spoken all too infrequently in movies of this ilk to counterbalance whatever confusion might come along with seeing a number of gun and alcohol references. And none of these things should come as a surprise, anyway-Pixar's nearly always challenging themselves and pushing their art forward.

 

 

 

 

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Despite the fact that Pixar's films are among the best and widest-loved (find me a critic, child, or adult who has seen the Pixar oeuvre and doesn't love them) films ever, they keep on taking the backseat to other computer animated films. The first blow was when Monsters Inc. lost the first-ever Best Animated Feature Oscar back in 2002, and in 2001, their year of release, Shrek beat Monsters at the box office. Of course, this year Ratatouille and its respective failure/success will undoubtedly be measured against Shrek 3's $300 million-and-counting cash in. Besides that, during the first reel of the press screening that I attended a kid sitting in the row in front of me loudly asked his mom if the movie that they were watching was Monster House. Why can't Pixar movies get the popular recognition that it seems like they already have?

And while Ratatouille is of Pixar's extremely high standard of quality, I doubt it will do much to change this. While the same can be said of Shrek, Pixar seems to have gotten to where they specialize in making the lead characters generally unpleasant in some way. Monsters, cars (I know that Cars probably appealed to a great deal of the nation's populace, but I don't know a single person who is remotely intelligent who was enthusiastic about seeing a movie about talking cars, whether it came from Pixar or not-myself included), and now rats make for unlikely leads in family films from one of the most consistent companies ever to make films. The main rat here is Remy (who is voiced by one of my favorite stand-up comedians, Patton Oswalt), a would-be gourmand, if only rats were allowed easier access into kitchens. He idolizes Gusteau (Brad Garrett), an Emeril-like celebrity chef who writes books but whose name is taken down by a crappy flagship restaurant and cheap merchandising of microwave meals bearing his face. After being forced on very short notice to vacate the home that he shared with his family, Remy ventures off on his own to discover that he actually has lived in Paris all this time, which is the home of Gusteau's restaurant. On inspection of the restaurant, Remy befriends and learns to control (long story-doesn't make sense anyway) a useless janitor named Linguini (Lou Romano), and through Linguini Remy is able to cook in the capacity he has longed for for as long as he can remember, so long as he can keep the Ren Hoek-inspired head chef, Skinner (Ian Holm), from finding out the secret of how he does it.

Although I don't imagine most kids will have too much of a problem overcoming having rats who live in kitchens as the heroes of the film (hell, if I were still a kid, I'd probably be clamoring for a stuffed Remy doll to sleep with), but I do wonder if they will have trouble understanding the (softened) French accents that almost all of the characters of the speak with. As for the adults, while it seems likely that a good time will be had by everyone from people who see one movie a year to hardcore film buffs, there are a surprising amount of both guns and wine in a film with a G rating-it's about on par with director Brad Bird's previous Pixar film, The Incredibles, but for whatever reason that one got a PG while Ratatouille is rated G. There are enough unexpected anti-selling out, pro-being a loner, pro-having an open mind messages that are spoken all too infrequently in movies of this ilk to counterbalance whatever confusion might come along with seeing a number of gun and alcohol references. And none of these things should come as a surprise, anyway-Pixar's nearly always challenging themselves and pushing their art forward. | Pete Timmermann

 

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