Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Last night N. and I took in the new Pixar movie, Ratatouille.

May I just say that Pixar has come a long way from Toy Story? In that movie most of what you saw was large images with lots of detail. In Ratatouille there were MANY small things with LOTS of detail. The rats (yes, I know… they kind of make my skin crawl, but in this movie they came off as almost cute) all had so many minuscule facial and body movements to tell the story. Of course they made the eyes more expressive which gave them more of a human and thus more relatable quality. But what was interesting was the fur and what looked like each hair was drawn with a life of its own.

Without giving away too much of the story there are several points at which hundreds of rats are all in one place working together. The action is quite dazzling even by Pixar’s standards. With movies like Toy Story the characters' faces were plastic, mostly not moving, but in this film the line between computer animation and the feeling of humanness (is that even a word?) seems to dissolve. The Frenchmen I know all have this magic shrug language. Between the movements of their shoulders and the looks on their faces, they can demonstrate the whole range of emotions. In this movie these movements are perfect; an Oscar-winning performance CAN be brought across through pixels.

There are dizzying, stunning chase scenes which demonstrate a mastery of detail which can in my opinion only be viewed at its best when able to stop the action like one could with a DVD… love that pause feature! Everything around our characters has a life of its own. The textures, colors and reflections are all perfect; it is almost as though you are in the image.

For me this level of wizardry also made it a little hard to watch, the rats are so… rat-like. No matter how cute they made them, they also stayed true to how a rat moves, and this made it hard for me to get over the fact that there were rats in a kitchen, and that’s just not right!

By the way, the short animated film at the beginning of this movie was an absolute delight. It is simply one of the funniest shorts I’ve seen in years.

My question is… does this movie really know who its audience is? I realize that they are trying to keep adults AND children happy the way Nemo captured both audiences. Unfortunately I think that they lost the children on this one. I imagine that the DVD sales won’t be as spectacular as they have been for blockbusters like Toy Story and Nemo, probably something closer to the money seen in Bug’s Life where the storyline was more adult-oriented as well.

But then the adult-oriented animated film can also be a well-loved classic for children. Bambi, The Jungle Book, and Fantasia come to mind for me as geared toward kids but enjoyed by adults, I like them better now that I am older than I did when I was a child.

What I call the “Princess theme” movies are of course instant classics as well, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast are all solid stories that inspire the imagination of both children and adults. This theme even transcends into science fiction, it has always been my thought that Star Wars was just another princess theme… this time with light sabers! Titanic is also a princess themed movie, that time it included LOTS of CGI and a whole boat sinks!!

All in all I liked Ratatouille. Thanks Pixar, for another great movie. Hopefully Disney and the mouse will leave well enough alone and let these fine people continue their great work without screwing it all up as corporate life is known to do.

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