Jun 17, 2007

Rat Review



Michael Barrier has written a typically thoughtful review of "Ratatouille". Apparently it had a sneak preview last night. If I tell you I had no idea there were any sneaks in the offing, that might offer some insight into why I haven't been updating much. Too busy!

As for Rat'--I've been very curious about this film(yes, I and every other person I know in the business) since word worked its way downstate that Bird had taken it on. Barrier, a writer I very much respect(he may be one of about two or three in the mainstream media who really, truly know how animation is made--animation of the present as well as the past), previously expressed skepticism that a film with rats as its main characters is setting itself up with a possibly insurmountable wall of aversion from the audience, but he's been happy to have his mind changed on that score.

Have a read.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

barrier needs to take the lesson Anton Ego learned in the film to heart. Ratatouille is the best film so far this year, and the best of the summer by far. And it's the BEST animated film as well.

Neal said...

I'm actually avoiding reading reviews of the film so I can enjoy it with as fresh a mind as possible, but I am excited that the buzz sounds so positive. I really hope Pixar can deliver something that continues to push the boundaries filmically...

Jenny said...

Anonymous--I must admit to "skimming" the review after a certain point. I'll go back and read it over in depth after I've seen the film. Right now I don't want to risk any kind of strong influence one way or the other--like Neal(thanks for the comment, btw).
But in my experience of his opinions, a positive review from Barrier can sound like a pan...that is to say, he's pretty darn tough--tougher on animated films than any other person I know who writes on the subject(come to think of it, Amid Amidi is up there as well). Anyway, I often disagree with both of them, but usually when I find myself disagreeing-even if violently at times-it's from a position of respect because I get the impression of respect from the writer.

Positive or negative, it's always fascinating to read the take of an outsider to a movie, one who comes with a wealth of knowledge of animation that is up there with that of the director. Certainly doesn't mean that they'd agree about everything, though!

I could see where Barrier began going at what he feels undermines the otherwise great things in the film, but I'm sure he wouldn't bother doing a review at all if he didn't think the film and the filmmakers weren't more than worth the effort. And he had what are for him some high praise for Ratatouille. I guess I'm saying I wouldn't be surprised if Barrier doesn't agree with you that Rat is the best film of the year.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, Barrier's past comments on Brad's films and CG animation in general were tortured and curmudgeonly. His complaint that the light of Paris was inaccurately rendered and more closely resembles San Francisco reveals a type of snobbery that only the unreformed Anton Ego could love ( Isn't this movie's Paris still an artistically chosen point of view, one that could vary widely depending on both the artist and the character whose eyes we see it through, in this case Remy the rat?) I have seen the film at one of the sneaks and although I agree this film is perhaps less "kid-friendly" than some other PIXAR films, I hope its skillfullness at weaving an intriguing story about empathetic characters, along with its humor, visual richness, and stunning set pieces will find a wide audience. Barrier seems eager to look for villains. I don't think most people will. I think they will celebrate its quality, which principally owes itself to its brilliant writer- director Brad Bird. I think you will love this movie, Jenny.

Jenny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenny said...

Anon, you're one literate so-and-so!
I can tell you're not a firm fan of Barrier's--and that's fine...as I've written, I certainly don't agree with all his opinions and takes, but I am certain he's a huge admirer of Brad Bird and respects his abilities immensely.
Here's an excerpt from one of his essays:

"Second thoughts: I saw The Incredibles again about a week after my first viewing, and I came away with my favorable opinion of it reinforced. I felt throughout the film that Brad Bird was pressing hard against the limits of the medium as it currently exists; watching it is a little like riding as a passenger in a high-performance automobile with an expert driver at the wheel....
...The Incredibles is an amazingly well-directed film, its action almost always crystal-clear, in contrast to the many live-action adventure films that lapse into incoherence at critical points. Bird takes full advantage of the computer's ability to generate artificial environments, and of the opportunities to move freely within those environments. It's in the animation of the characters that the sense of "construction" remains the strongest, because movement must seem to originate within the characters, not with the camera or the director, and it doesn't, not quite. As I said in my original review, Bird—like everyone else who works in computer animation—hasn't found a way to clear that hurdle.
He does come remarkably close in some scenes, though."


And the first paragraph of his "Ratatouille" review:

"Brad Bird's new Pixar feature Ratatouille is in many respects a marvel, taking full advantage of the capabilities of computer animation in ways that other cartoon studios' films (and other Pixar films) haven't even approached."

I get what you're saying, and yes, this is a man who is incredibly difficult to please, animation-wise--which is why I wanted to make mention of his appreciation of Rat. Fron this particular guy, it's all but a rave!

But I'm opinionated, too, and again, I hear what you're saying. I too am passionate about films I think are exceptional that either don't get a break, don't get enough of a break, or are just dissed for spurious reasons. But as Barrier is so demanding in such particular ways(not saying that's good or bad, just that he is), I'm happy to take his review as a glass more than half full, if you know what I mean.

As for me, I think you're right: I'm positive that I am going to love this film. I honestly am of the opinion that Bird just can't make a sub-par film--not if he had to shoot it with matchsticks and glue--and he's got a killer crew around him that he collaborates with perfectly. I don't think it much matters what the films' characters are, what the nominal 'plot' is, what supposed audience is targeted; he really does make these things for himself first, and he knows how to make it work. The same can be said of the crew up there-they're all on the same page. Add to that that I'd listen to Lou read a phone book and get a kick out of it--well, I'm probably prejudiced.

Sean said...

Even if you can't stand animation, or motion pictures in general, I predict that you will love this film! How can you not? It's filled with Paris, cooking, some of the best animation I've ever seen, amazing character design, and a bullet proof story (and there are a lot of bullets flying in this film). Oh yeah, and it's another breakthrough for CG animated films on top of all that. Another win for Bird and Co.

David Nethery said...

It's a great film ! I saw it Saturday at one of the preview screenings. I'm not going to say too much about it until it goes to wide release, but I will say I agree with Michael Barrier's point concerning the problem with the "French" accent of one of the voice actors.

It's always odd to me when a film doesn't follow a consistent approach to accents ; in conventional movie terms we are supposed to understand that all the characters in "Ratatouille" are actually speaking French , even though we are hearing them speak English (in the English-language version of the film), but it's confusing when some of the characters are portrayed speaking with French-accented English, but other characters (like Linguini and Remy) have American accents . A minor quibble. It didn't really hurt my enjoyment of the film that much. I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing "Ratatouille" a second and third (probably more!) times , when it goes to wide release on June 29.
100% Pure™ Animation magic !

Gabriele Pennacchioli said...

Guys are not into cooking and girls don't like rats.
Children wont see the movie because their parents wont take them for the reasons above.
Please Jenny, tell me that I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Gabriele, I sincerely hope you are wrong, but I must confess, I have heard exactly the concern you describe mentioned by those who should know. It is a huge hurdle the marketers must somehow circumvent in order for the film to succeed. These sneaks, and the (so far) overwhelmingly positive reviews will help, but as Jeffrey K used to say ( and perhaps still does), "Guys, it's in the hands of the movie gods..."

Michael said...

Mike Barrier's reviews are always insightful regardless of whether I agree or not. His writing comes from a deep understanding of animation, and it's always worth hearing what he has to say. Prior to reading his review, I had only a mild interest in Ratatouille (Brad Bird was the primary reason I was interested). Barrier's positive comments now have me biting at the bit in anticipation of the film.

Jean-Denis Haas said...

But guys are into rats and girls into cooking, so it's perfect! :-)

One of my dear childhood movies is "Secret of Nimh", but I don't remember if it did well. I believe it has a fan following now. But it worked for me, despite mice and rats.

Remy is so stylized that I really don't think that people are turned off by the fact that Rats are characters in the movie. Yes penguins are cuter, but still.

Robert said...

Barrier's main neg seems to be the length. I sure didn't have a problem with it.

Barrier complains that "Rat" was a "salvage assignment" for Bird, but so was "Iron Giant".

Ratatouille never hits the powerful notes that "Iron Giant" did (makes grown men cry) but it does very, very well.

Anonymous said...

Barrier loved Polar Express.

nuff said.

Floyd Norman said...

As an insider I get to watch these films take shape over time. I knew this one would be good -- but it's even better than I expected.

Clearly, there are storytellers -- and there are storytellers.

Anonymous said...

It isn't that Pixar can do no wrong, it's that they haven't. This may drive some critics with sharpened knives to distraction but isn't it great that at least one studio on earth constantly achieves both commercial and artistic success?

mnmears@go.com said...

As I said after "Cars" was released ... there's not a clunker in the bunch.

"Ratatouille" is a wonderful, engaging, magical delight. Children under 6 probably won't enjoy it as much as their parents ... but I have no problem with that.

The physical comedy reminded of the best bits in Steve Martin's "All of Me," as well as the classically milked scenes funny as anything done by Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy.

Brad and his story team also throw the audience a few curves -- and, I admit, those complete 180s were delightful surprises that made perfect sense in the larger context of believability. I'm sure that the story could have traversed a more anticipated and expected route and still been successful ... but the film soars even higher because it dares break those conventions.

See "Ratatouille" as soon as you can -- and drag all your friends and animation obsessed fans. It's certainly one of the best films of the year and hands down the best animated film.

"Ratatouille" is a love letter to the passion all artists carry in their hearts -- whether those artists are chefs, animators, writers, musicians, crafts people or simply fans of those talented geniuses who brighten our lives and inspire us.