Brad Bird is still on top of his game, spearheading the genius which is Pixar animation.
Remy (Patton Oswalt) is a rat living in France, but rather than happily pick through garbage, Remy prefers gourmet food, the dangerous kind that can get you killed (if you’re a rat). When an opportunity presents itself for Remy to actually cook in the restaurant established by his favorite chef, Gusteau (Brad Garrett), he must befriend a talentless human named Linguini (Lou Romano) to pull it off. Avoiding the suspicious eye of the kitchen’s weaselly head chef Skinner (Ian Holm) and cutthroat glances from the only female chef, Colette (Janeane Garofalo), Remy and Linguini are set to fool everyone, but can their luck hold out long enough to impress even Gusteau’s former arch enemy, restaurant critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole)?
After infusing Pixar with fresh blood and storytelling with The Incredibles, director Brad Bird follows up his smash hit with the considerably smaller-scaled Ratatouille. The film had plenty of obstacles to overcome in selling itself to an audience: a difficult if appropriate title, a story about cooks in a kitchen, and a French setting, none of which really screams “epic summer blockbuster.” In spite of everything, the film succeeds on every level, especially in storytelling and pacing. Consider this film further revenge against Warner Bros. animation for failing to promote Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant; this guy could probably film a story about melting ice cubes and have you crying and cheering for them in the end.
The voice cast is spot on, from the unsure Linguini to the boisterous Gusteau himself. Surprises in casting included Janeane Garofalo’s amazing characterization of the determined Colette and Ian Holm’s villainous frustration as Skinner. In either a nod to film critics everywhere or a brilliantly-veiled jab (likely both), Peter O’Toole’s vocal performance defines the gloomy but menacing Anton Ego, a food critic who lives in a world all his own making and appropriately so. It’s this dedication to the characters and their performance that raises the bar for Pixar films, but none of it would work at all if not for the flawless script that outlines the fate of these amazing and memorable characters.
The exploits of Remy are a mirror held up for anyone who’s ever pursued a dream and overcome the obstacles standing in the way; if you think you can’t make your dreams come true, try being a rat who wants to cook in a five-star restaurant. Bird’s script also keeps the story interesting while crisp editing holds your attention to the very end. The worst thing that can be said about this latest installment from Pixar is, why can’t EVERY filmmaker pour this much heart and soul into whatever movie they’re making? Disney’s animation branch hasn’t just been taken over by Pixar, it has been redefined because of it, and the frozen head of Walt Disney should need no reason to feel any prouder.
(a four skull recommendation out of four)