Sunday, June 17, 2007

The year of the rat

For a few years now, observers of Hollywood have been speculating (if not outright predicting) that the days of the theater experience as we know it are numbered. The explosion of DVD, HDTV, and other home theater technologies means, if a viewer is willing to wait about six months -- sometimes less -- they can get an experience in their media room that's pretty darn close to the best theatrical exhibition. Minus the $5.00 Cokes, ringing cellphones, and crying babies. Only the window between theatrical and home video release, so the theory goes, is keeping the moviegoing public from cocooning completely.

And though I'm annoyed by unruly tykes as the next person, I do think something will be lost for future generations of moviegoers if the place they experience their first film is on the couch in the living room. I know that some of the greatest impressions made on me were seeing classic Disney films, like Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo at the little movie house back home. I was reminded of those iconic images last night when I was lucky enough to snag the last (literally) ticket to a sneak preview of the new Disney-Pixar film, Ratatouille. It may well be the studio's best work yet.

The film tells the story of Remy, a rat, whose passion in life is the very un-ratlike pursuit of haute cuisine. When he lands in Paris, and at the restaurant of his gourmet idol, Gusteau, it would seem to be the perfect fit. Except for the fact that a rat in the kitchen, obviously, would spell doom for the restaurant. Let alone the fact that what human is going to believe that a rat can cook for the demanding Parisian diners? Enter Linguini, the garbage boy. In whom Remy finds the perfect vessel for working his magic behind the scenes in the kitchen. Hilarity, as they say, ensues.

After a softer than expected reception for Cars last year, and given the unusual concept of a cooking rat, questions about Pixar's unbroken string of critical and box office hits may have been in question. Ratatouille should put any doubts to rest until next year's release, WALL-E. The computer animation is stunning on every level. Characters, human and animal, are rendered with greater detail and realism than any before. The Paris settings have a depth to them that, again, recall the classic Disney era films and lend a more timeless feel to the story. More than anything, however, Pixar remains head and shoulders above other CGI animation competitors by focusing on a truly funny and touching story. Without hurling a million irrelevant pop culture references a minute at the adults, or throwing in needless bathroom humor for the kids. Neither age group is talked down to, yet there is more than enough for both young and old to enjoy throughout. As much as you'll laugh at the slapstick comedy, and enjoy the several action set pieces, I promise you will want to clap and cheer for Remy when all the chips are down about the time Act III kicks everything into overdrive.

It opens nationwide on June 29th and I can't wait to see it again.


  • Chris!

    Great to hear such good things about Ratatouille! My family and I look forward to seeing it as well.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you about Pixar being head and shoulders above most of the other animated fare out there -- they truly do know how to present an entertaining and intelligent story.

    Hope all is well and take care,


    By Blogger Rochelle Smith, at 9:10 PM  

  • So this film will singlehandedly save theatres?

    By Blogger MaryAn Batchellor, at 2:53 PM  

  • Hey Roch!

    If you plan on going to see it at El Capitan, lemme know. I'm just around the corner. Hope things are well with you also.

    Maryan --

    I don't think it will singlehandedly save theaters (I think it could end up being one of the top 3 grossing movies of the year). I'd like to think that kids who are able to see it in theaters, though, will get a sense of the magic of seeing a great story on the big screen. And maybe they'll carry that throughout their own lives and want to keep the tradition going in the future? I do think if other studios put out product that was as consistently great as Pixar, a lot more people would probably want to go out to the movies a lot more, however.

    By Blogger Chris, at 1:42 AM  

  • one more week! I just know this movie will make me want to forcibly hug random people on the street.


    By Blogger Karen, at 4:34 PM  

  • I am glad to hear good things about this movie. My kids have been excited since seeing the advertisements.

    By Blogger annabel, at 1:48 PM  

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