Monday, July 2, 2007
Pixar Produces Another Instant Classic
Just when you think our culture's imagination is in full retreat, taking to the comfortable hills of easy formulas, Pixar strikes again with another instant classic. Unlike the Shrek series, Pixar's humor doesn't lean upon the crutches of pop-culture references or salacious innuendo, nor is its imagination wholly derivative or reactionary. Ratatouille, while not as laugh-out-loud funny as earlier Pixar movies, is the most clever and charming offering to date. Its premise is so outlandishly creative as to seem impossible to deliver. One can just picture a Pixar writer staring at the word "ratatouille" on his menu in Paris, and conceiving a story involving a rat whose highly developed senses lead him to a passion for fine food and eventually to the position of top-ranked chef. Coming into the movie, I couldn't imagine how this premise could possibly develop into another one of the tightly structured, exciting, and hilarious movies Pixar regularly produces. Ratatouille stretches the bounds of imagination and comes out a winner.
A couple of issues ago, Ross Douthat, the prolific movie reviewer for National Review, bemoaned Shrek's insipid attempt at morality designed to "flatter the prejudices of... the most narcissistic generation of Americas in history, by imparting a moral--be thyself-- that's as old as Polonius and as new as The Secret, and as brainless as both." Ratatouille's message is much more palatable, mixing in a good dose of democratic sentiment ("anyone can cook!") with a passion for confronting intractable nature despite the impossibilities (confronting the antagonism in rat / human relations while resisting a rat's penchant for theft).
The animation is also astounding. There is no doubt that Pixar has revolutionized animation, and Ratatouille exceeds their accomplishments in The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. The rats are almost too well rendered, slightly more disgusting than cartoonish.
See this movie! It's simply a good time for every age group.