From Brad Bird comes a delightfully and comically fresh family movie - Ratatouille (2007). Remy is a rat with discerning taste in cuisine, who has rather unusual culinary talents. His misadventures lead to him getting lost, and then finding himself in "the city of the best food in France" - Paris. From then on, it's a hilarious turn of events as he achieves his dream - cooking in a top-class kitchen, but not without some rather funny mishaps along the way.
First up, the animation is simply great. Hats off to Pixar! They just seem to get better and better. The creases and crinkles on the Chefs' uniforms, the fur of the rats, the shimmering liquid texture of the soups and sauces - everything's drawn down to the very last detail. I don't profess to be an expert on animation, but Pixar's work is wonderful. At certain moments, you're bound to wonder whether it's an animated movie you're watching, or just a regular one. The visual treatment of the movie is truly incredible.
The plot is a little choppy in the middle of the movie. Perhaps a little forced. But it's more than made up by great voicing, by Lou Romano as Linguini (the garbage-boy who is discovered to be Gusteau's son), by Patton Oswalt as Remy the rat, and Ian Holm as Skinner is simply wonderful as well. Credit goes to Peter O'Toole too, for putting in some spectacular voicing work for the character of Anton Ego, the coffin-shaped food critic.
Janeane Garofolo, however, stole the show, I thought. Her French-accented English, her witty one-liners, and her easy changes from the friendly Colette to the angry Colette are something to watch out for. Also, she manages to make the character of Colette show - a girl intent on making her mark in a man's world - and managing to do that to an animated character, I suppose, is not easy.
Apart from offering some great comic moments, Ratatouille is also a rather sarcastic critique on food snobbery. I've seen food snobs and gourmet critics in my line of work, and Anton Ego is a caricature of these two types, right down to his immensely complacent "I know everything about food" air. Gourmet food may be great, but Ratatouille seems to suggest that sometimes, simple food can be just as effective as working its way to our hearts - for didn't Ego love the simple and traditional peasant dish that was served to him?
I could go on and on about Ratatouille. It's one of my favourite films (and not just for its cooking-theme). I'd dragged my then-boyfriend to watch it when it released, simply because the trailer itself captivated me. And I wasn't disappointed.
It's a rather unusual movie, one that children should definitely watch, but also one that has some important messages for adults. That talent and creativity can come from anywhere, even from the most unexpected of places, and we should give them their due credit. That sometimes, it's the most simple things in life that really matter, and it's not the money or the fame, but just the warm buzz of memories, that can make us happy. And lastly, that following your heart is essential, for selling out beliefs never did anyone any good - like Shakespeare put it so well: "To thine own self be true".