RATATOUILLE ($30) is Pixarís most mature animated production, a film whose computer generated beauty makes something like TOY STORY appear positively crude by comparison (and I am a huge fan of TOY STORY). Story-wise, I absolutely loved RATATOUILLE; the Pixar creative team demonstrates that cute animated characters can also be intelligently written and sophisticated, but the thing about this movie that left me awestruck was how far computer generated animation has come, without leaving the cute and fuzzy character designs in the dust. The level of detail brought to the animated characters floored me; the hairs on the rats and human characters are incredible. Additionally, I was truly amazed by the backgrounds, sets and other objects that make up the filmís digital world (watch the scooter chase sequence carefully to see what I mean). If RATATOUILLE does not take home an Oscar for its achievements, then those awards have become totally meaningless.
Set in Paris, the plot of RATATOUILLE follows the adventures of a country rat in the big city; however this is the story of no ordinary country rat. Our central character is named Remy. Remy is a highly gifted rat, blessed with an uncanny sense of smell and taste. Because of his refined palate, Remy refuses to eat garbage like his brethren. Venturing into the country kitchen of a human, Remy tastes real food, experiments with the combinations of flavors and becomes familiar with the very human concept of cooking through the television show and cookbook of Gusteau- whose philosophy is that anyone can cook. Unforeseen circumstances and coincidence bring Remy to Paris and to the kitchen of Gusteauís restaurant, where we learn that the famous chef has passed on.
Once in the kitchen, we quickly learn that assistant chef Skinner is currently running Gusteauís restaurant, and the first thing we learn about Skinner- he is far more interested in profiteering off of Gusteauís reputation, rather than upholding it. After Skinner, we are introduced to Linguini, the newest member of the kitchen staff, who serves in a janitorial capacity. However, Linguiniís tenure in the kitchen is soon brought into question when he is caught seasoning the soup. Although Linguini alterations to the soup recipe would have been horrifying taste-wise, Remy saves the day and Linguiniís job, by some careful extra additions to the soup, which proves to be a hit with the restaurantís patrons. This culinary success quickly leads to a relationship between Remy and Linguini, one in which, the rat is literally pulling the strings. The wonderful vocal talent behind RATATOUILLE features Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O'Toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Will Arnett, Julius Callahan, James Remar, John Ratzenberger, Teddy Newton, Tony Fucile, Jake Steinfeld and Brad Bird.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has made RATATOUILLE available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. I recently reviewed the Disney release of MEET THE ROBINSONS and called that presentation stunning. For RATATOUILLE, Iíve just had to redefine what stunning truly is- because in comparison, RATATOUILLE is stunning to the nth degree, totally blowing MEET THE ROBINSONS out of the water. Heck, there were moments during the presentation of RATATOUILLE where I felt I was watching HD instead of SD- itís really that good. The CGI picture is nothing short of amazing; image clarity, sharpness and detail are all pretty tremendous. Colors are vibrant and are rendered without flaws. Blacks are pure, while the whites are clean and crisp. Contrast is very smooth and the picture is wholly beautiful. Digital compression artifacts are never a concern.
RATATOUILLE comes with a highly pleasing Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Although the track is primarily dialogue driven, the sound design makes great use of the outlying channels for the filmís effects happy moments, as well as the chase sequences. Fidelity is excellent, with the music having a full sense of presence and the sound effects always having a compelling quality. Voices have natural warmth and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. The bass channel keeps everything nicely grounded. An English Dolby Surround track has also been provided, as have English subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some extra features. Starting things off are a couple of Short Films; Lifted which accompanied RATATOUILLE in theaters, while Your Friend The Rat finds Remy and his brother Emile talking about their species place in history. Fine Food And Film is a fourteen-minute featurette with director Brad Bird and chef Thomas Keller. Three Deleted Scenes with optional filmmaker comments close out the extras.
RATATOUILLE is an utterly brilliant animated film, and for my money, Pixarís finest achievement. Disneyís DVD is so stunningly beautiful that it begins to blur the line between SD and HD. Absolutely recommended.
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