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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Ratatouille (2007)

"Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere."
- Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: November 19, 2007

Stars: Patton Oswalt, Peter O'Toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo
Director: Brad Bird

MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 01h:51m:01s
Release Date: November 06, 2007
UPC: 786936727173
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A-AB B-

DVD Review

Those of us with small children have long been deeply grateful for Pixar—so much kids' "entertainment" is so execrable that at some movies, I half expect the Department of Child Services to bust in and round up us big people for delinquent parenting. Who would have thought, though, that their latest production would be a poignant parable about artistic creation? Certainly you can appreciate Ratatouille for its craft, ranging from its finely honed story—these animation studios are the last remaining vestiges of the old studio-system story departments—to its increasingly breathtaking technological achievement. (The changes in the available technology even since Toy Story, Pixar's maiden feature, are stunning.) But Brad Bird, who wrote and directed The Incredibles as well, has an agenda that's beyond simply entertaining us—it can seem a bit heavy handed now and again, but overall, it really is a lovely and well-told tale.

Our hero is Remy, a fastidious little rodent with keenly developed taste buds—ferreting through the garbage, the stock in trade for his kind, is not for him. The movie can seem a little precious when he goes on and on as a gourmand—you've got to run with the premise that a rat scurrying through the rafters of an old house has a yen for saffron, for instance, and this can be especially hard to break down for those in the film's target audience, whose idea of fine dining is chicken fingers lathered with melted American cheese. Unfortunately for Remy, the woman who owns the house in which he and his family lives is the vindictive sort, and comes after them with a shotgun. Remy gets separated from the pack, and lo and behold, the adventure of a lifetime takes him to Gusteau's, the premier restaurant in all of Paris. Sacre bleu!

Gusteau himself has passed along to the big five-star kitchen in the sky, but his apparition functions as Remy's Jiminy Cricket—it's really kind of adorable, this miniature, jolly fat little chef showing up perched on a rat's shoulder, intoning his mantra that "anyone can cook." Remy's unlikely partner in crime becomes Linguini, a gangly young man newly employed in Gusteau's kitchen—the great man's successor, Skinner, is a petty little Napoleonic tyrant of a chef, more interested in marketing the Gusteau moniker on packets of frozen corn dogs than on producing the world's finest cuisine.

The film sort of traffics occasionally in lazy French stereotypes, and many of the voice-over actors lard on Clouseau-like accents—Janeane Garofalo as Colette, Linguini's inevitable love interest, and Brad Garrett as Gusteau are especially conspicuous with their Pepe le Pew-like work. The movie is actually kind of all over the place with its voices, though—Linguini, the young Frenchman, sounds like a Valley dude, and Remy and his family sound more Manhattan than Montmartre. Patton Oswalt is game and eager as Remy, but best in show certainly goes to Peter O'Toole, as fearsome food critic Anton Ego—he's magnificent, and you can't quite believe that no one thought to have this outsized actor with the sonorous pipes voice an animated villain before.

Remy essentially becomes Linguini's Svengali or his Dr. Frankenstein, and the animators have a gift for deft physical comedy—Linguini is reminiscent of Steve Martin in All of Me, though I don't want to tip too much of the story. The movie becomes quite explicitly about the tensions between commitment to one's art and obligations to one's family—you can't help but think that this has a particular resonance for state-of-the-art animators with studio deadlines to meet and little kids at home hungry for face time, and if the movie does get a bit preachy, its heart surely is in the right place. And it's a story about the perils and foolishness of criticism as much as it is a parable of artistic creation, so it's obviously foolhardy to write about it, on some level. But it already feels like a perennial, and fits most worthily into the pantheon of Disney animation established by Walt back in the day, a mantle since picked up by John Lasseter and Pixar. Bon appetit!

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A paragon of a transfer, with fantastically saturated and steady colors. Computer animation may still have its limits, but it's unparalleled, obviously, when it comes to digital reproduction.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: t's all clear, and the dynamic range is considerable—you'll need to peg your speakers just so, lest you be blown out by the action sequences while still being able to make good sense of the quieter, dialogue scenes.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 31 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Wall*E, Disney's movie rewards program, 101 Dalmatians: Special Edition DVD, Snow Buddies, Pixar Short Films Collection—Volume 1
3 Deleted Scenes
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. home video setup guide
  2. Easter egg
Extras Review: As was the case with Cars, this DVD release is relatively light on the extras—you get the sense that Disney knows that the feature itself is enough to get the units to move, so investing any more won't yield any greater return. Lifted (5m:05s) is an animated short about a wacky little alien in training that ran with the film in its original theatrical release, and new for DVD is Your Friend the Rat (11m:19s), a species PSA hosted by Remy and his brother Emile. Fine Food and Film: A Conversation with Brad Bird and Thomas Keller (13m:56s) is really a couple of conversations, as the film's director and the chef at The French Laundry , filmed separately, discuss their receptive crafts, touching on inspiration, diligence and spontaneity—and Keller even prepares the comfort food dish of the movie's title. A package (15m:10s) of three deleted scenes feature introductions and afterwords from Bird and other members of the production team—you get a few glimpses of the evolution of the story and a small window into the animation process, just enough to make you (ahem) hungry for more. The DVD also features a home-theater setup guide, so that you'll get optimal performance out of the disc, and if you click on one of the pots on the stove on the main menu, you'll find a brief (0m:58s) Easter egg, in which various members of the production team take stabs at pronouncing the movie's title.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

A lovely movie, that's a stirring fable, an enchanting entertainment, and a technical marvel. It's sure to bear up to the many repeat viewings its likely to get, even if it won't necessarily make you rethink your relationship to the critters that may be crawling around underneath you. And if you don't come hungry, you'll surely leave that way.

 


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