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A Couple Of RATATOUILLE Reviews Come Squeaking In!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Disney’s evidently running a nationwide sneak of RATATOUILLE on Saturday night, and I would recommend that you make the effort to get out and see it. I’m working on my own review of the film, but for now, we’ve got a couple of reviews from people who saw early screenings, and I want to run them to encourage all of you to check this one out. This is a very, very special movie.

Hello! I attended an advance screening of Disney/Pixar's RATATOUILLE in Boston Monday night. This was a free MySpace promotion, and the crowd started lining up inside the Boston Common Theater around 5 for the 7:30 show. There was a brief, exclusive recorded intro from Brad Bird -- nothing too amazing, just a little "hello" to get the crowd pumped -- followed by a short featurette called "The Comedians of Ratatouille" which had zippily-edited interviews with Oswalt, Garofalo etc. It looked like they had as much fun as you'd expect working on a Pixar flick. A short called "Lifted" precedes the feature, and it's a pretty hilarious riff on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, crossed with your high school driver's-ed class. Pixar's shorts are always a marvel of character animation and crack comic timing (I thought CARS was actually a bit of a step down from the "One Man Band" short attached to it), and this was no different. Plus it has the geek-centric advantage of being about aliens. They look a bit like MONSTERS INC rejects, only made out of flubber. Big laughs from the audience, which kicked things off on a good note. On to RATATOUILLE. This is a slightly different kind of film for Pixar. In fact, it's unlike any American animated film we've seen in quite a few years. With its relatively relaxed tone (for a cartoon) and lack of wacky, wise-crackin' sidekicks, this one is miles away from the hellzapoppin' hijinks of the SHREK films and their various rip-offs. This is not to say it's not funny. There's a set piece involving a character being used as a sleepwalking marionette that will remind some of the classic Goofy films, and there's a moment where one character's *very* last-second decision not to pepper-spray another got the biggest laugh I've heard in ages. Director Brad Bird's visual inspiration seems to be vintage Disney fare like LADY AND THE TRAMP. They've set a new standard for using computer animation to achieve a marvelously warm, hand-made quality, and I thought more than once during the film that I wish they gave Cinematography Oscars to cartoons. It gives us a Paris that's modern, yet dreamlike. The performances are just right. Patton Oswalt is sharp and endearing as Remy, and he gets the lyricism and the desperation that come from pursuing one's passions. There's a pretty huge chunk of the film, however, where Remy is essentially mute, and the film is given over to his human foil Linguini, voiced by Lou Romano, an unknown who works behind the scenes at Pixar. It was Linguini I found myself thinking of after the film, and I imagine Romano will be heard in some capacity in their next few films. He's sweet and silly without being annoying, and together Linguini and Remy make for a classic comic pairing. By the end of the film, the audience was literally roaring with delight over the nimble twists the film navigates. I've been to early screenings where the free-ness and the excitement of seeing something early can make a crowd a little more enthusiastic than a film might actually warrant, but in this case I'll give the credit to the film itself. The crowd was applauding before the closing credits even started rolling. I'm a big fan of what Pixar has done in the last dozen years. I can't get enough of THE INCREDIBLES and the TOY STORYs, while I was merely appreciative of CARS and FINDING NEMO, with MONSTERS INC and A BUG'S LIFE sitting in-between for me. RATATOUILLE seems like another instant classic, and goes a long way toward alleviating my disappointment with the lackluster CARS. It should go over like gangbusters. - The New Cruelty

Great nickname, dude. I heard that the MySpace screenings went amazingly well, and it doesn’t surprise me at all. This is a film that speaks up to its audience instead of talking down to them, and that sensation is so unusual this summer so far that it must drive crowds wild. Check out this second review. This is probably the worst review I’ve read so far, and it’s still pretty damn good.

Hey all – I just crept my way out of a sneak preview of Ratatouille and so here I am to throw a few bones of cast-off goodness to you and all the other animation freaks out there: The Good: It's better than Cars. Granted, that's not a very hard stunt to pull off (no goddamned buddy songs or trash-talking-hotshots learning-life-lessons from-a-gang-of-obselete-misfits here, no sir), but it's still worth mentioning all the same. It's not nearly as good as The Incredibles, Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc. (to say nothing of Brad Bird's only non-Pixar feature-length flick, The Iron Giant), but we'll get to that later. The film's set-up is as such: A rat named Remy befriends a human schmuck named Linguini - Linguini also just happens to be a hapless garbage boy employed by what used to be Paris's most hoity-toity 5-star restaurant. We soon discover that said restaurant recently lost one of those 5 stars after a food critic (voiced by Peter O'Toole) lambasted the joint with a scathing smack-down in his newspaper column, which in turn lead to the death (presumably a heart attack) of the restaurant's founder, Auguste Gusteau. Remy the rat, is of course, a goddamned cooking genius of almost Iron Chef proportions, and so he and Linguini (who has absolutely no innate cooking skill of his own) secretly work together in the kitchen, and in doing so accidentally foist Gueateu's restaurant back into the limelight of the culinary world. Pretty simple plot, right? Anyone with half a brain already knows that by the end of the film some of Remy's talent in the kitchen will have rubbed off on Linguini, proving the oft-repeated motto of the film that "ANYONE CAN COOK!" Well, that's not what happens. Not at all. In fact, Linguini doesn't learn jack shit except how to wait tables and to stay the hell out of Remy's way in the kitchen, which serves as an extension of the whole "LET AWESOME PEOPLE BE AWESOME AND EVERYONE ELSE HAD BETTER JUST STAY OUTTA THE WAY" story motif that Brad Bird used as the thematic motif in The Incredibles. In fact, one could easily argue that element of Ratatouille's plot (genius motherfucker steps in and fixes everything after a n00b lets things all go to hell) is really just a bit of art imitating life (Brad Bird took over the reigns of Ratatouille after the flick's original director, Jan Pinkava, left the project in the middle of the film's development), but that's a backseat-bit of psycho-analysis better left to someone else, I'm sure. It's a beautiful fucking flick. Whereas Cars was all about the radiosity of light (remember all that brain-cra,ping;y-awesome reflective neon light in the "fixing up the town sequence" in Cars?), Ratatouille is all about the luminisoty of light. Everything in this flick glows with it's own inner light, light that catches the air and scatters all around in blooming halos of soft, fluffy incandescence. It's great goddamned stuff. Also worth nothing are a lot of other details, from the pockmarked texture of a frenchman's complexion to the nappy fur of a bazillion nearly-drowned rats to the reflection of the Paris skyline in the Remy's eyeballs, Pixar continues to nail all of the the tiny details that count when bringing a world to life. The animation itself is pretty swell, too, especially Remy's transitions from anthropomorphic rat to full-on four-legged rat-mode, where he scampers and leaps and snifs at objects in a heightened version of real-world rat behaviour. (There's also a great shot where Linguini confronts Remy on a darkened riverbank, where Remy's eyes shine in the dark in a way that'll be familiar to anyone who's ever had to crash in a New York City tenement.) (I have to admit that there are hitches and burps in the animation every great once in a while, though - I'm still not entirely sure why some of the characters move like cocktail waitresses with a broomstick shoved up their asses when climbing steps or turning around at the waist, but on the whole, Ratatouille's animation still beats motion-captured bullshit by country mile.) And speaking of mocap: Pixar takes a great swipe at motion-capture animation with a cheeky "100% Motion Capture Free!" certificate tacked onto the very ass end of the final credits. Take *that* Zemekis/creators of Monster House/etc! The Bad: Ratatouille's story comes off as being a little...undercooked. (Yeah, yeah, that'll be the first of 8 billion goodamned cooking-related metaphors you're gonna have shoved down your throats regarding Ratatouille between now and July - better get used to it, kids.) It's hard to describe exactly what's missing, but on whole the flick's plot is pretty unremarkable, and just feels like your average ordinary flicktoon-plot just with a glossy Brad-Bird-flavored sheen character-driven coating of humour glazed on top. Again, that's not necessarily a *bad* thing, but folks still waiting for Pixar's return to genre-defying glory will be a bit disappointed. (I'm thinking that Andrew "Finding Nemo" Stanton's next flick, Wall-E, may prove to be exactly what most of us have been waiting for, what with the rumour that it'll may feature little to no dialogue and will instead opt to tell its story entirely through pantomime. It'd be great to see animation itself be the star of a top-of-the-line CG flick rather than a parade of B-list stars. We'll all see how that shapes up by next summer, I suppose.) Kids are gonna have a hard time slogging through the endless parade of makeshift French accents being flung at them for two straight hours. Expect lots of "what did she say, Mommy?" if you happen to catch Ratatouille at weekend matinee, folks. The opening short "Lifted", directed by longtime Lucasfilm sound engineer and Pixar collaborator Gary Rydstrom is pretty funny, but not quite as nifty as some of the more recent shorts to come bouncing out of the studios lately. (I think last year's short - the one with the two dueling street musicians - was by itself damned near worth the price of admission to Cars, but that's just me.) Naturally, when going to see a movie about good eats, you're gonna get hungrier than usual while parked in the dark. Be sure to bring something to munch on during the film (in this case, smuggling in a few cheese sticks and a wine spritzer may not be such a bad idea...) To sum it up: Ratitouille is a good (but not great) effort from Pixar, though it'll be interesting to see how McDonald's figures out a way to market cancer-inducing Ratatouille Happy Meals to kids when one of the movie's central themes is "don't eat garbage!" If you guys use this, call me Gunpowder Throw-Up Poo Poo Eggs.
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