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Animation and Anime

Quint orders a giant plate of RATATOUILLE and eats it up!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Because I’m set up to interview Patton Oswalt and Janeane Garofalo before the big AICN screening of RATATOUILLE on Monday, I had an opportunity to watch the film last week, in a digital cinema no less. I am a Brad Bird stalker. I absolutely adore his work so far. I have an IRON GIANT one-sheet framed and mounted on the wall about 3 feet to my left as I type this. I got him to sign it at Comic-Con the year he was promoting THE INCREDIBLES. And THE INCREDIBLES… My favorite Pixar movie, followed closely by TOY STORY 2. So, my expectations were so very high going into this movie. When the lights went down I was treated to two nice little surprises. First was an animated short called LIFTED directed by Gary Rydstrom. This was nominated at this year’s Oscars, but this was my first time to see the short. It’s about an abduction gone wrong. Sci-fi coolness and word-less comedy gold that stands up with the other great Pixar shorts, like BOUNDIN’ and FOR THE BIRDS. After the five minute cartoon we were treated to the trailer for the next Pixar movie, a story about a little robot named WALL-E. The teaser showed us WALL-E doing his job, taking trash and scrap, putting it into his body, then pulling out a compacted cube. The trailer’s best moment shows us the moment WALL-E begins to dream. The short, squat robot looks up to a brilliant starry sky. We see the stars reflected in his eye lenses and, again without a word, we see his imagination spark. This looks great. Then RATATOUILLE began. What can I say? It’s as effortlessly great as the rest of Pixar’s movies. The most common question I’ve gotten after seeing the film has been, “It’s better than CARS, right?” I liked CARS, but I do agree that it’s probably the least Pixarish movie they’ve put out. With the modern pop culture references and jokes, it was more “the normal” studio animation formula. I do think it had the heart of a Pixar movie, though, which is why I still really like it. RATATOUILLE is back to Pixar standard. Lots of character humor and heart, but no distracting wink-wink jokes. You’ve seen the trailer, you know the plot. The trailers are accurate to the film. They’re not overselling it, or selling it as a different movie than it really is. If you like the trailer, you’ll love the movie. I know geeks will love this because it’s Brad Bird. I know families will love this because it’s great Pixar. They really are making the movies Uncle Walt used to make back in the day. And they make it look so damn easy. I’m not sure how critics are going to respond to it, though. The main villain is Anton Ego, a critic. He’s designed like something out of a Tim Burton fever-dream and voiced perfectly by Peter O’Toole. It’s not just that the big villain is a critic, but there’s a monologue that O’Toole has that really shines a light on how critics work and how most of them really look at life. I don’t know if a lot of critics can take it as well as they can give it. I completely agree with the reverse criticism given in the film. I’ve met many, many, many critics in my time writing for this site and can say that not all of them act like Anton Ego, but a whole lot of them do. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a little critical backlash just because of that segment of the movie. The pacing is perfect, never slowing down. The characters are all interesting and all are perfectly cast. Patton Oswalt brings a kind of awed innocence to the lead character, Remy, and newbie Lou Romano is perfectly awkward as Linguini, the second half of the odd couple that is the lynchpin of the film. And Janeane Garofalo’s French accent is surprisingly natural. Her character of Colette is adorable, fiercely beautiful. I think we’ll see a lot of little boys (and maybe some little girls, who knows?) fall for her like I fell for Ariel. The animation is outstanding. The detail is incredible. I remember when MONSTERS INC. came out and I was obsessed with Sulley’s fur and how Pixar made it so realistic. They turn it up here. Remy’s fur is beautiful, and they even have small details like seeing his little rodent heart beating rapidly in his chest. I grew up with tons of hamsters and I recognized this immediately. It just makes the world that much easier to get in to. It’s got this hyper unreality to it. It’s still a cartoon, but those little details make it work. RATATOUILLE is not as geeky cool as Bird’s previous two films, but it proudly stands amongst the best Pixar has to offer. Bird brings us another fantastic movie. -Quint

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