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Ratatouille is an unusual film, at least from the perspective of an avid Pixar and general animation fan such as myself. I remember the trailers debuting all over the internet and in the cinema for this film, and my initial reaction was somewhat deflated. Of course I’d heard that Pixar were making a film about a rat whose passion was cooking, but until I saw the trailer my expectations had no grounds to stand on. The marketing machine for this just didn’t capture my attention as much as other releases last year, only the Pixar brand name was keeping this one afloat. But is a brand name good enough? Read on to find out.

Ratatouille

Feature


Promoting a film can be a tricky business. But I would have hated to be the person in charge of marketing Ratatouille. You can compile a flicker of scenes and mix them together with dramatic trailer music and rushing credits that’ll entice the audience, but not with this film. Ratatouille is all about its story and characters, and portraying them as they are in less than two minutes in an attempt to sell them to to a crowd is damn near impossible. Especially with its staging and concept. Let’s face it, who wants to see a film about rats and cooking set against the backdrop of Paris?

This is the reason why the marketing never snowballed into a mountain of hype like many of the big films of last year. Animated films have to be seen as interesting to woo its audience, especially the bearer of the wallet. Kids can scream and complain as much as they want, but if mum and dad aren’t impressed then they’ll use any excuse in the book to get out of going. Believe me, I’ve seen it all.

So, did Pixar fail to entice audiences? No. In fact, Ratatouille holds the distinction of being the third biggest animated film in the studio’s history. And almost all of that financial gain can be attributed to one thing: word of mouth. Ratatouille made its lion’s share entirely due to unanimous praise from both critics and moviegoers alike. Better yet is its upcoming Oscar nomination for best animated film, which it is likely to walk away with. Whoever was heading the marketing at Disney/Pixar, hats off to you. Looking back now, I realise there’s not much more they could have done, Ratatouille is simply a hard film to sell in two minutes, but the full experience, well, that’s something to behold.

Ratatouille
I won’t lie. Once I sat myself down in front of the TV a few days ago (this was my first experience of the film having missed it in the summer), I was nervous. I’ve previously sat though seven pixar films over the last couple of years and I have enjoyed every single one of them, even the slightly disappointing Cars was still superior next to the bulk of other animated releases in any given year. Nevertheless, that good old Pixar brand name was good enough for me. They haven’t failed me yet, so why should they start now?

Ratatouille is about a rat called Remy. Unlike his one hundred-strong family who live in the ceiling of an old lady’s country dwelling in France, he has a fondness towards humans, despite the fact that humans and rats are mortal enemies. This is outlined by his father very early on in the story when his idea of cooking is foraging in wild grass for herbs and hilariously being zapped by lightening atop a chimney in a desperate attempt to cook it. After a bizarre turn of events that leads to the not-so-sweet old lady discovering the mass of rats occupying her household, Remy ends up separated from his family. And what better place for a budding chef to end up in than the city of lights, Paris. Alone and afraid, but able to realise his dreams at the best restaurant in town, Remy’s adventure begins. It sounds cheesy, even unbelievable despite it being animated, but Pixar nail it perfectly.

Everything just works beautifully in Ratatouille, and while I could use at least a hundred food orientated puns to explain why, I’ll instead just say that you’ll be whisked away (I couldn’t resist) in its overflowing charm and magic. But this isn’t just a film for the kids, this is a film where anyone is invited, it’s a film for everyone, and I mean that. The kids obviously come aboard for the playful animation and thrills, but there’s plenty for the adults to appreciate as well. Its underlining themes of family conflict and a want to prove yourself will be familiar to most, but as much as you’ll find to love about the story and characters, you’ll also be entertaining by some truly outrageous humour, all of it clever, subtle and laugh out loud hilarious.

Ratatouille
There are things you’ll notice in the characters’ development as the film progresses, such as Remy walking upright for the majority of the runtime. There are vocal mentions of this early on, but it’s something that isn’t left by the wayside after five minutes. This tight focus on the characters only strengthens the film’s core themes, as it helps us to better understand their desires and dreams. Remy is torn between two halves, as he explains to his father; part of him wants to be human, the other doesn’t.

He has more in common with the humans, and as we see him abandoned from his family he almost becomes one, using Linguini as a kind of vessel if you will, controlling his actions. But though due course the filmmakers don’t forget that we have to be true to our nature, and what and who we are. Remy finds himself eventually, as does Linguini who realises that he can’t pretend to be something he’s not either. Many of the other characters also find their true self by the end, and it will bring a huge smile to your face when they do.

To find this much depth in characters and story is simply astonishing, not just for an animated picture but indeed any film. Ratatouille is a very grown up, very sophisticated picture that doesn’t shy away from adult themes and perpetual desires. It faces them head on. And when you see the bond Remy and Linguini gradually forge to help one another, you’ll realise that’s something no trailer could ever hope to capture.

Yes, Ratatouille is a different breed of Pixar film, but that’s because it is an entirely new species all together. I admire Pixar’s ability to break from formula from time to time and give us something fresh, something different and unexpected. Ratatouille certainly has more than its fair share of familiar themes we’ve come to expect, but it also gives us all new ones, and a different approach that continues Pixar’s steady evolution. Change is always good, and nobody but Pixar seem to be able to grasp this in the film industry right now. It’s certainly something everyone would benefit from if they would take more notice.

Ratatouille
As usual with a Pixar release, the animation here is breathtaking, and though it is stylised to give that air of fine French cuisine, it is also believable. Everything from the farm house where the film begins to the creepy sewers Remy ends up lost in, all the way to the ornate kitchens of Gusteau’s, it looks and feels amazing.

There’s some excellent use of traditional animation early on in the film too, when Remy has a conversation with an illustration of Gusteau. This perhaps hints upon John Lasseter’s promise of a traditionally animated Pixar film at some point in the future. I can only dream I suppose. And as ever with a Pixar film, there’s an incredible focus on detail. It’s everywhere in this film, from the mouth-watering food to little quirks you’ll notice in each character to the sheer beauty of Paris itself. Technically, Ratatouille is a gem, and every frame of it is oozing with passion. Nobody does animation like Pixar, nobody.

Ratatouille is a delightful film and is Pixar’s eighth consecutive success story. From the trailers preceding it, I was fearful the chain of success might finally be broken and they’d see their first failure, but I was gladly proven wrong. Ratatouille is bursting with familiar charm and has characters you’ll care about. You’ll come away having had a fantastic time, and you’ll want to watch it again and again. If Walt Disney was still alive today, I’m sure he’d be thrilled with what Pixar are doing: continuing his legacy.

If you were put off by this film because of its concept, or because it doesn’t look cool enough, then don’t be. This is, without doubt, one of the finest animated films ever made and one that shouldn’t be missed by anybody with a love for the genre.

Ratatouille

Video


Okay, where to begin with this one. Almost all animated films look good on DVD, that is a dead certain fact. I’ll even be willing to bet a great deal of my wage (which admittedly isn’t a lot) that most of you home cinema boffins always have an animated film at hand as your chieftain demo disc. Am I right?

Well if you are anything like me, then you probably have several. Finding Nemo is one of my favourite, all those colours and fine detail looks absolutely divine on just about any HDTV. If I had a penny for every jaw I’ve had to scrape off the floor after having run Finding Nemo though my system I’d be a very rich man by now. But if you thought that transfer was good, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Ratatouille is possibly the best looking animated film ever burnt onto a circular piece of plastic. The detail and sharpness on this DVD is practically on par with many HD titles I’ve seen recently, and the colour palette is typically wide and extremely varied. Ratatouille doesn’t have quite as many eye-popping vistas and “money shots” as Finding Nemo, but it does have a greater sense of clarity where the transfer is concerned.

You’ll notice everything Pixar have put into the film, and such things as individual hairs on the animated rats and reflections in pots and pans bursts off the screen with perfect sharpness and colour definition. In a nutshell, this film looks fantastic, and is easily the best looking DVD release in quite some time.

I honestly cannot see how they could squeeze more quality from this platform. This surely has got to be the magnum opus for what the format is capable of and a damn fine reason to convince your family and friends they don’t need Blu-ray. At least for the foreseeable future until digital downloads become more feasible that is.

Ratatouille

Audio


Pixar have always made good looking films, but they have never short-changed the audio either. Ratatouille is no exception to the rule and sounds almost as good as it looks, which is a pretty big deal considering this is one of the best looking titles out there right now. You’ll only find a Dolby Digital 5.1 option here, but what a cracker it is!

Dialogue comes though with depth and grace, and every channel is perfectly used to give a full-bodied aural experience. The occasional action scene in the film, specifically the amazing kitchen sequence when Remy first drops headfirst into Gusteau’s makes full use of lower frequencies as we see the grand scale from a rat’s perspective. The rushing water and light echo from the sewers sounds eerily realistic too, and Michael Giacchino’s delightful score is well balanced and given every opportunity to shine.

Extras


On disc one you get Pixar’s new animated short, Lifted. I love their short films, but this is, for me anyway, one of my favourites so far. It might only run for five minutes or so, but Lifted is hilarious, beautifully animated and sets the tone perfectly for their next big movie, Wall-E.

Your Friend the Rat is an extremely fun animated short hosted by Remy and his brother about the history of the Rat and their part in the world’s ecosystem. This short uses the same animation style seen in parts of Monsters, Inc. and at the end of Ratatouille during the credits. Definitely worth a watch.

Ratatouille
Fine Food and Film is a relatively in depth look at how the filmmakers, specifically Brad Bird, integrated the idea of delicious food into an animated film. This feature explain a little about another person involved with Ratatouille, Thomas Keller, a renowned American chef.

That’s it for disc one, so let’s go and explore disc two a little. First up is a feature called Building Paris. Pretty self explanatory this one, it’s all about how Pixar came up with the perfect look and feel to Paris.

Character Profiles is a short feature on some select characters from the film. You can either play them individually or together. Combined they make up about eight minutes. Next there are four deleted scenes to watch, all of which were quite entertaining. Instead of finishing the animation on them however, Pixar have instead presented them in a clean but intentionally rough-looking illustrative fashion.

There’s a progression reel for the “rapids” sequence in the sewers. In this we get taken though the scene as it unfolds with some interesting insights into its creation. A Behind the Scenes feature has five sections to choose from next, along with hand play all button.

Remy’s Incredible But Edible is a pretty pointless feature along with Ratatouille Around the World (something a few Pixar films have been doing recently) that shows or rather lets us hear what alternate language versions of the film sounds like. Finally, there’s a few trailers for other Disney releases that round off the second disc of extras.

Ratatouille

Overall


Pixar have done it again. I’ve said this time and time again and still they hold true to their promise without disappointing. And whilst I think Ratatouille is arguably one of their least appealing films conceptually, especially when compared with the likes of Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, it still manages to be a triumph of the genre and a credit to their name. In fact I’d say Ratatouille easily falls within their top three. It’s that good. But I did struggled to rate this film upon my first viewing I must admit. In all honestly I would have said it was borderline between an eight and nine. But since watching this film again, I can now firmly award it a nine. It deserves nothing less. Ratatouille is an instant classic.

Technically this DVD is glorious. The picture is absolutely superb, and upscaled it looks pixel perfect. This is exactly the kind of DVD that makes you wonder why anyone would want to spend the extra on the equivalent Blu-ray disc. The Dolby Digital track is also excellent, and never misses a beat. As this is a two disc release I would have expected slightly more extra features, but it nonetheless falls in line with previous Pixar releases and is sufficient enough. There might not be a plethora of content, but all of it is good, high quality entertainment nonetheless. In short, this is a DVD you can’t afford to miss out on, and deserves a spot in your collection. If you love animation and missed this one at the cinemas as I did, pick it up. Or even if you didn’t but want a top notch demo disc, also pick it up. You won’t be disappointed. Next up, Wall-E. Will that be their ninth consecutive success? Count on it.


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