Back in March, Rotten Tomatoes was invited to hang with "Ratatouille" director Brad Bird at Pixar to screen select scenes from the forthcoming summer pic. Our verdict? Either "Ratatouille" is going to be superb or Bird made some astute choices in choosing which clips to show, because what we saw was classic Pixar and their ability to juggle comedy and tense action scenes on full display.
The first clip (the longest but best one) opens with Remy, the wannabe chef rat, sneaking into a house to filch some saffron. A program about Gusteau, Remy’s favorite and inspirational chef, comes up on TV. In a very Pixar-ish moment where the TV mesmerizes a character and proceeds to deliver horrible news ("Not a flying toy," anyone?), Remy is instantly seduced by the sight of the screen, and learns that Gusteau is dead and his restaurant is on the rocks.
Before he can mourn, the old lady of the house wakes up and starts blasting away with her shotgun. Remy’s friend, the whiny voice of reason who had been trying to convince Remy to return home, is the first target. A comic action sequence follows, very exciting (and very loud), as the two rats scurry around, dodging buck shots. They end up on a chandelier and a final shot from the woman sends the ceiling crashing down, revealing hundred of rats that had been hiding in the attic.
Everybody goes into panic mode and it’s a dervish of fur and feet bouncing towards the door. The rats make it outside, into the rain, and hop into emergency miniboats stashed in the bushes. Meanwhile, the woman is still shooting every which way she can while Remy goes back for a cookbook penned by Gusteau. By the time he makes it out, everybody’s already on the boats and they’re all heading into a sewer tunnel. Remy jumps into the water with the book as a raft, calling out for help, frantically pushing forward with his hands. The rain is pelting down and the woman is still trying to gun down the rats. Inside the sewer tunnel, Remy takes the wrong path and is sucked down into the water, separated from his friends and family. "Probably forever," he concedes later after finding dry ground.
The other clips we saw, each in various stages of completion, fleshed out more of the story. "Ratatouille" involves Remy helping out a loser at Gusteau’s restaurant named Linguini, whom everyone believes to be a brilliant chef. In reality, Remy’s food was served to patrons but it was Linguini who inadvertently took the credit. There are at least two bad guys: an angry, bitter chef (think Manuel from "Fawlty Towers") who knows Linguini’s a fake, and Paris’s top food critic (played by a growly Peter O’Toole). And there’s the love interest: an angry (nobody’s really happy in this movie) young chef who’s sick of the discrimination women have to bear in the cooking world. The more she rejects Linguini, the more he finds her irresistible.
I was a bit worried after I found "Cars" less than stellar. But "Ratatouille" looks great, the action sequences impressive, and the camerawork fluid (a scene with Remy climbing through an apartment complex to get to the roof has the camera beautifully gliding in and out of nooks and crannies). I always admired Pixar’s ability to attract celebrity voices that were never distracting ("Cars" notwithstanding) and they touch the quick again: Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garofalo, Ian Holm, and Peter O’Toole are all familiar names and all perfectly cast.
After a tour of Pixar (you can live off their cereal supply for at least 75 years), we were treated to a "Ratatouille" trailer double feature. The new American trailer does a much better job setting up the potential of this movie than the lackluster trailer shown last year. The Japanese trailer plays up the relationship between Remy and Linguini, and Bird reveals the movie’s being called "Remy’s Delicious Miracle" in Japan. How nice.
Author: Alex Vo