Friday, March 27, 2009

I smell a rat

As a wise man once said, you gotta use your instincts.

I did, when skipping Ratatouille during its theater run -- despite copious accolades and strong reviews. And I used them again, when resisting the temptation to ... well ... to make any effort whatsoever to see it.

Until recently. Oops*.

*Blame cable.

Here's the point: Pixar's 2007 Oscar-winning film about a rat who happens to be a chef ... it's just not good. Sorry.

I know, I know ... I'm in the vast minority on this one.

And maybe it's because I couldn't care less about the culinary arts*.

*Personal note: I eat the same things, almost, every day. It's just what I do.

Or maybe it's because I have an extreme dislike for Patton Oswalt, who took time off from his smug stand-up "comedy" act to voice Remy, our hero.

Then again, anti-actor sentiment hasn't kept me from liking films before (and the appearance of two favorites, Will Arnett and Ian Holm, should offset it here anyway). As for the anti-food bias -- Sideways' massive crush on wine (another thing I care zero about) couldn't keep that movie from being great, IMO.

So no, there's something else at work with Ratatouille. Really, it's just that everything about the film is so ... obvious. The dialogue*, the plot, the chase scenes (yawn), even the names of some characters**. It's a film that thinks it's being creative by sticking a rat in a fancy restaurant, but in the execution it manages to render even its original ideas ordinary. Plus, the animation isn't even that great.

*The stuff that's comprehensible, anyway -- because, honestly, I couldn't understand a one word Janeane Garofalo's character says.

**A would-be chef named Linguini? An arrogant guy named Ego? How clever!

It seems to be a problem with American animated films, and possibly the Pixar label itself. For some reason, the standards of excellence are just a notch lower. That's likely how Ratatouille became be almost universally loved -- it was on even more top 10 lists than Michael Clayton, for God's sake -- despite its unending mediocrity. It happened to The Incredibles, too -- a largely OK movie that somehow got labeled great.

And while I'm at it, that might be what happened to Wall-E. Its setup -- the first 45 minutes or so -- is the stuff of pure wonderment. In fact, the Wall-E/Eve love story never lets up, staying fresh and adorable until the end. Except there's this little subplot ... with humans ... and saving the Earth ... and even two human characters who strike up their own relationship ... blah. And that's just the kind of blah that keeps a lot of American animation down.

Ah, well. At least Wall-E had some stuff going for it, unlike its immediate Pixar predecessor.

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