Since their feature debut “Toy Story” came out more than ten years ago, Pixar has been the best source of animated film in the entire industry. For almost every year after that they churned out greater and greater films such as “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles”, and last year’s “Cars.” In 2007 they brought the story of Remy the Rat, a rodent with the knack for cooking, in “Ratatouille.” While “Ratatouille” is very cute and expertly animated, it didn’t have the kind of magic that we’ve seen from the now legendary company.
The story is simple. Remy the rat (voiced by one of the best comedians out there, Patton Oswalt) is not like his other family members. Instead of foraging through trash, Remy has the unfortunate/fortunate sense of good taste. Through a chain of events he ends up assisting a screw-up named Linguini (Lou Romano) in a 3-star restaurant in Paris. The restaurant finds itself very popular due to its new chef even though all the work has been done by his little rat friend. Linguini and Remy find their hardest challenge when the prolific food critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole) decides to come back to see if he made the mistake of giving the restaurant a bad grade (bringing it down a star).
The story is clever, but a lot of the film feels too fanciful. In one scene, there are hundreds of rats cooking in the kitchen being watched by people. This just seems a little unrealistic (wouldn’t they completely freak out?). I know what you’re saying… “Cars” was a movie about talking cars, that seems a little more unrealistic. “Cars”, however, was a film with a different concept and a different world. This film is supposed to be more like the real world, and in the real world people do not reply well to seeing that many rats in any place at any time.
The film just felt too overly sweet, and not as strong as Pixar’s previous efforts. It also didn’t feel as smart. Pixar movies have always had a smarter side to them that set them apart from the opposing animation companies. “Ratatouille” just wasn’t up to that level of sharp wit as its predecessors.
Something that can be said about the film was its wonderful voice work. Peter O’Toole brings a wonderful dreariness to his character, a role that seems just destined for his voice. Patton Oswalt also speaks very well through his character, bringing all of his feelings out in a way that only a comedian can (slightly sarcastic, but well-intentioned). The star of the film is the perennial Pixar voice of John Ratzenberger in a bit part as the French waiter. It’s obviously Ratzenberger, but the addition of a French accent makes it twice as hilarious.
“Ratatouille” is very sweet but can’t lift above its lack of wit. It’s definitely worth a watch but doesn’t have the rewatchability like Pixar’s other movies. It has a good story and a message, but it just doesn’t feel as special.
In a year filled with disappointments, it is sad to see a movie like Ratatouille not completely fulfill its anticipations. “Cars” was one of the best films of last year, and it’s just a shame to see Ratatouille in the same ranks as some of the other low rate animated films released this year. Hopefully next year’s “Wall-E”, which looks extremely promising, will blow away the problems that Pixar seemed to have with this film. While it’s better than many of the other animated films that were released in 2007, it isn’t that much better.