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Oh, Paris!: Brad Bird’s Ratatouille

Oh, Paris!: Brad Bird's Ratatouille

After a long week of wedding planning with an extra splash of wedding planning on top, I was finally able to get away from the house this weekend and go on a good old fashioned date with the Mrs.-To-Be. The plan; An early movie, a trip to the grocery and a home cooked dinner, before cuddling up on the couch and relaxing. Nights like these are the reason we’re getting married in the first place, right? All that was left to decide was which film to see. I was very excited to see Brad Bird’s Ratatouille; I had really enjoyed The Iron Giant and taking my niece and nephew to see The Incredibles was equally rewarding for all three of us (something I can’t usually say about a children’s film). Once the reviews were in, I knew we had to go. The Mrs.-To-Be took some convincing, but since we both love good food and our honeymoon plans involve a trip to Paris, I think she got into the idea. Off to The Pavilion, a theater we rarely ever attend (with good reason; Its usually full of obnoxious patrons on cell phones, rowdy teenagers and a hundred other living examples of why the theatrical chain business is in the toilet), but after a lovely walk through Park Slope, we found ourselves in our seats for the start of the show.

First, the projection; It was an HD projection on a Christie projector (or so the pre-show titles said) and it looked absolutely flawless. The colors were vibrant, the sound was moving all around the theater at perfect volume; I was blown away to see this level of theatrical presentation at my local chain. The best part? The movie itself prospered under the precision of the image and sound presentation; Every frame of Ratatouille was meticulously crafted in such detail (from the texture of the rat’s fur to the glittering plastic patina of a motorcycle helmet to the stunning ‘reveal’ of Paris at night) that it was impossible not to get lost in the emotional and physical ‘reality’ of the story. This was a fully constructed animated environment, and Brad Bird deserves credit for not hitting a single false note; I have seen ‘serious’ films that feel less believable than this fairy tale. Ratatouille is a tremendous accomplishment; An animated fable that feels more painstakingly true to life than most movies dare attempt.

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Say Cheese! Remy (Patton Oswalt) takes a bite in Brad Bird’s Ratatouille

The story is classic and timeless; Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is forced to flee his comfortable, rural lifestyle, landing in the big city of Paris and given the opportunity to live his dream of becoming a great chef. It’s not easy for a rat to get a job in the kitchen, and so Remy befriends Linguini (Lou Romano), a bumbling, unemployed dishwasher who rises to culinary fame by allowing Remy to literally pull the strings of his career. Like any chef, Linguini’s (and therefore Remy’s) reputation relies on critical praise, and a showdown with a vampyric food critic named Anton Ego (deliciously voiced by a Peter O’Toole) looms on the horizon; Will Remy earn the appreciation his talents deserve (despite the fact that he is a rat)? Can Linguini learn to master the business of a restaurateur? Will Ego enjoy his meal? Thrown in a terrific subplot featuring a crisis of conscious regarding the responsibility of an artist to his poorer relations and Ratatouille delivers a magnificent, charming portrait of the ups and downs of being a creative soul in a world that seems less and less appreciative of the creative process.

Not that the people can’t recognize greatness when they taste it; Remy’s food is a hit. And yet, there is a not-so-subtle message in Bird’s film, one with which I found myself in full sympathy; Appreciation of creativity and the artistic touch is more and more becoming a masquerade, an act of detached consumption instead of an act of full participation. Those who take things seriously, in this case Remy and Ego, can attach high emotional stakes to the outcomes of the creative process; despite being a great deal of fun, Ratatouille also honors seriousness in a very profound way. This seriousness manifests itself not only in the emotional triumphs of the film’s plot, but in Bird and Pixar’s flawless execution of the crafts of storytelling, animation and film making. Remy’s own flawless nose and ability to create a perfect soup is mirrored in Bird’s animated Paris; the structure and texture of the kitchen and cooking implements, the universe of detail in each and every object on screen, it’s all as fine as anything I’ve seen in a movie theater. A wonderful surprise.

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Ooooh, That Fur! Remy flashes his smile in Brad Bird’s Ratatouille

On the slow walk home, basking in the wonderful, upbeat feeling the film inspired, we indeed stopped at the grocery store and picked up some fresh herbs and veggies before whipping up a humble dinner at home and enjoying the rest of the night together. Sometimes, things just work in concert; you don’t want to spend too much of your time planning and thinking. You enjoy life. You’re moved by something lovely. You can’t beat it. Why try?

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