I saw Pixar’s new film Ratatouille today. Pixar has nailed it again! Visually the movie is a feast. The colors, the picturesque buildings, the lighting… with so much attention to detail you could just pause the movie at any frame and sit there and just look at and study all the little things… old wood is worn out, old metal has rust, eyes have reflections, when you hold up a piece of paper the light shines through it so you can see the inverted text from the other side… so much attention to detail is just… and then the animation! These aren’t stiff Hoodwinked animals (a budget is nice), these things move when they sigh and have weight to carry when they walk.
But enough blather about such things! The story was also great… along with Pixar’s great record of beautiful animation comes their attention to story, which matters! I’ve heard people attribute Toy Story’s success primarily to the innovation of computer animation, but if they hadn’t come up with an enticing and well-written story, things might’ve been much different. (Plus, Disney is good at marketing.) The point is, movies can be visually stunning (and live action movies can have good-lookin’ people in them), but the actual story is perhaps the most important element. (As long as the visuals aren’t so degrading that they do no story justice.) While other animation studios may depend on sequels, Pixar has been able to come up with seven quite unique worlds with engaging stories that make the worlds worth entering. Ratatouille combines the age old “follow your dreams” message with an enticing plot, believable (though sometimes over-the-top) characters, and wonderful wit that makes the by-itself-corny theme presentable. (I wish more writers could understand just how serious humor can make a story.)
(Skip this paragraph if you’re afraid of what may be a spoiler, though I personally think it’s pretty predictable.) A slogan is established right at the beginning of the film: “Anyone can cook!” The film contains some excellent “philosophy of art” messages. Change “cook” to any artform. “Anyone can paint.” “Anyone can compose.” “Anyone can act.” “Anyone can animate.” “Anyone can sing and dance.” Technically it’s quite true, but does that mean everyone is good at everything? Of course not. The problem is that certain people think of it all too objectively. Some people think “If I like such-and-such, everyone else should too, or else they are too stupid to recognize its genius, too foolish to understand the artist’s message (which I have assumed), too uneducated to have a thought that counts because how much a piece of art influences another is in some way a measure of its objective worth!” But thinking such a thing is ridiculous! I hope people take notice of just why the critic ends up liking his meal (*gasp* there’s the spoiler), which helps illustrate (if that’s the right word) why a piece of art can’t be “great” for everyone (much to the disappointment of certain artists… and critics).
You, by virtue of being the audience to any work of art, bring yourself to it. You fuse yourself with the artwork (not the artist!). You combine it with all your thoughts, desires, dreams, fears, experiences, and memories. How can it be objective?! (Yes, what you think of it can be objective, but it’s worth by itself can not, because it comes from you. To say something is “great” implies its being experienced by a human. We are the conceivers of the abstract concept of “greatness”!)
It’s silly, but I suppose within our human nature, to care too much about what others think. I’ve written negative reviews of other films and books and people who have disagreed with me have felt, well, not-so-good. I can understand why a person would be quite happy to see that someone shares his opinions on something, but to feel insulted when someone has a disagreeing opinion is a sad and rather nonsensical response. Yes, I can understand how that is within human nature, but that doesn’t mean critics (or I) will stop sharing dislike for something, because the point is not to objectify art or shove opinions down other people’s throats. (Though that is the point for some artists and critics!) So if you read an opinion of mine you don’t agree with, please don’t care too much. It’s just my opinion, you can still have one too. We don’t have to care what the rest of the world thinks.
Oh yeah, the music was also great… Michael Giacchino (Jee-ah-kee-no) is brilliant! I just put the soundtrack on my Amazon.com wishlist.
So, overall, I give the film an 8 out of 10… which is very good. My favorite Pixar film remains to be Finding Nemo, followed by The Incredibles, and then this film, Ratatouille.
I hope Brad Bird directs more Pixar films.