Last night, I was lucky enough to catch an early screening of RATATOUILLE, the new Brad Bird movie from Pixar. After THE IRON GIANT, THE INCREDIBLES and now this, I feel it is safe to say that Brad Bird is the closest thing there is to the Miyazaki of America. Of course, each reflects their culture (and Bird has a ways to go to equal Miyazaki overflowing genius) — Miyazaki is truly personal animation, a tone poem of joy that never shies from horror and loss.
Bird is American — the colors are loud, the shapes big, the voices comedic and broad. But his movies are not mere cartoons, but philosophy lessons. THE IRON GIANT was about the Cold War and learning to trust. THE INCREDIBLES was about Ayn Rand and the tyranny of mediocrity. RATATOUILLE doesn’t have quite such a bold log line — it’s about a rat who likes to cook, but it’s also about the gift of the talented, how you need to follow your true calling even if it leads to a lonely path, the destructiveness of mindless criticism and the joy of truly sensing the world. The climax, which made me cry, recalls Marcel Proust.
The story is a familiar one, but its twists and turns always seemed fresh to me. The threat introduced early in Act I simmers on the stove until Act III, while the hero, Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt) fights other enemies and hindrances.
A detailed review should await a second viewing, since I was so caught up in the story that I missed many great lines and bit of business. Suffice to say that after all my moaning about bad storytelling and weak structures in current movies, I cried additional tears of joy at a film that was so obviously made with love and care in every frame. The whole story unfolds from the very first scene, and develops and deepens as it goes along. The details are almost subconscious. Remy is cute and anthropomorphic when seen from his viewpoint, but animated as a real scuttling rat at others. Everything is in the service of the story, and the result truly satisfies, like the round mellowness of a hazelnut biscotti melding with the bold jolt of a cup of coffee. Truly it takes many tastes put together to create harmony and beauty, and Brad Bird has done it.