Ratatouille [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Stevie McCleary and Noor Razzak (23rd November 2007).
The Film

Over the years, with thanks to many an animated film, I have learnt many things about the world that were previously unknown to me. It's quite humorous to me that it took so long to find out that cars could talk, penguins could surf, the world had Incredibles, and...I've run out of examples. There were toys as well, right? Buzz Lightyear and a cowboy? The world contains many wonders, it's true. "Ratatouille" is one such wonder.

From Disney & Pixar, the minds behind "Cars" (2006) and "The Incredibles" (2004), comes this classic rat out of water tale. Well, that's not quite the phrase, but then "Ratatouille" is not quite so easily pigeon-holed either. It is one of the finer CG-animated features to come down the pipeline in recent memory. And as much as there is a glut of these movies around, ever since the first CG film made much moolah for film studios, like the saying goes 'the cream will rise to the top'. This cream rose, and deservedly so. Top notch effects, appropriate voicing, and a strong script all combined to make quite the pleasurable experience for all viewers.

The plot concerns Remy (comedian Patton Oswalt), a young rat living in Paris that tires of the garbage that rats are forced to eat and dreams of becoming a chef. Through a series of bizarre events, including finding out that his favorite chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett) is now dead and sort of in spirit form talking to him, Remy ends up in Gusteau's restaurant. He befriends Linguini (Lou Romano), a clumsy garbage boy and a worse cook, and together they team up to cook using Remy's natural talent and Linguini's ability to stand in public places without being broomed in the face. Naturally the film sort of glosses over how Remy can read...but a bit of lip service is thrown as to why he acts so un-rat-like in general. However the fact that Remy yanks on Linguini's hair in order to control his cooking actions is just plain silly. But it is forgivable as a necessary plot device that does elicit many laughs throughout.

Things don't go smoothly for our boys though, and the crack one-man-one-rat cooking team find themselves under the scrutiny of the sous chef Skinner (Ian Holm) who wants to push Gusteau's restaurant as a lowest common denominator franchise. But he also harbors a secret about Linguini that would take everything away from him. Combined with the attention of France's top food critic, Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole~!) who always had it in for Gusteau, Remy and Linguini have their work cut out for them...

Despite the usage of talking animals I'd have to say this is the most adult of films to come from Pixar. Featuring more drama than straight comedy it will appeal to adults far longer than it will to children, a friend who saw it at the cinema and still raves about it to this day. I was pretty unsure beforehand but can now admit that my skepticism was completely unfounded. You can tell the effort that director Brad Bird and the rest of the Pixar team put into this. The film is vibrant in animation, action, and imagination. It is easy to recommend for the simple reason that I don't believe there are many CG-animated features that are better than this one. There is no reliance on tired clichés or tired bathroom humor. It's just a good yet bizarre story that fires on all cylinders the entire way through. Pick it up and enjoy.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical widescreen ratio of 2.39:1 this transfer is presented in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and created using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The DVD featured a reference quality transfer, that was for standard definition. This high-definition transfer can also be considered reference quality and takes the film up to a higher playing field in terms of sharpness, colors, detail and depth. The film simply looks gorgeous. The most impressive aspect is that the image shows off the intricate detail of the animation rather well and viewers will appreciate the attention to detail in which the animator's have created for this film. From the breathtaking full scope shots of the Paris skylines to the interiors of the restaurant and kitchen are all rendered flawlessly. Colors simply pop, the full gamut is run here in a fantastic package that will put a smile on HD buffs. If you're still on the fence about upgrading to HD then perhaps this transfer will convince you...yes it's really that good.

Audio

This film includes four audio tracks in English Uncompressed PCM 5.1 at 48kHz/24-Bit/6.9mpbs, English Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as tracks in French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its PCM 5.1 track and the tradition of strong audio presentations on Blu-ray continues for Buena Vista. The DVD release already had a very strong Dolby EX track but this PCM feels like it breaths a much deeper and more robust range than the Dolby track. It brings the world of Paris and Gasteau's kitchen to life in a wonderfully complex and brilliantly balanced manner. The track is incredibly active and makes effective use of the 5.1 with its array of vibrant and natural sound effects; these Directional effects help to add a rich ambiance to the sound track and provide the viewer with a totally immersive quality to the film. With dialogue that is clear and distortion free and a score that adds a further richness you can't go wrong with this presentation in what can be considered a benchmark for animated sound tracks and takes its place among other reference quality high-definition titles.

Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has released this film with two short films, three featurettes, a series of cine-explorer features, and bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is "Lifted" a new Pixar short film which runs for 5 minutes 6 seconds, this is a humorous little film about a young alien being trained to abduct humans out of their houses with a tractor beam. Expect it's easier said than done. This film is another excellent example of why Pixar continues to deliver wonderful entertainment as they clearly foster the talent of their animators with these short films and eventually they'll make the leap to producing a feature. I look forward to what director Gary Rydstrom has in-store for us in the future.

Following that is "Your Friend the Rat" a second short film which runs for 11 minutes 19 seconds. In this film Remy and Brother Emile take us through a history of rats and where they came from, the types of rats and also covers some of the good things about rats versus the bad. This film tries to make rats more appealing to people. It's a funny clip that features some very neat retro-styled animation.

Next up is "Fine Food and Film: A Conversation with Brad Bird and Thomas Keller" a featurette that runs for 13 minutes 57 seconds. This clip shows the level of attention, artistry and passion behind both men and their professions. Bird comments on the idea for the film and inspirations, creating the feeling of spontaneity while Chef Keller takes us through his culinary inspirations and on creating dishes. The clip covers their backgrounds, in developing their craft as well as a brief look at Bird's directing style and how he strives for the best from his team and on how demanding he can be at times. The two men draw comparisons in their vision and passion and although the clip was short it was a welcomed addition to this DVD.

Exclusively featured on this disc is the "Cine-Explorer" interactive features which allows you to watch with the movie with a series of behind-the-scenes features to guide you through the film. You can also watch these individually through the disc's menus. The features included are:

13 animation briefings, these are videos of director Bird talking through the scenes and providing direction to the staff of animators during the making of the film, these clips provide a unique look at how animated films are directed and the approach to storytelling they take, these briefings include:

- "Mushroom and Cheese" which runs for 54 seconds.
- "Caught" which runs for 1 minute 7 seconds.
- "Linguini is Made" which runs for 1 minute 39 seconds.
- "Reunited" which runs for 1 minute 2 seconds.
- "Homecoming: Old Issues" which runs for 46 seconds.
- "Homecoming: Silence Game" which runs for 40 seconds.
- "Emile Returns: Motorcycle Ride" which runs for 1 minute 7 seconds.
- "Emile Returns: Demoted to Rat" which runs for 42 seconds.
- "Car Escape" which runs for 1 minute 7 seconds.
- "Colette Moves On" which runs for 1 minute 6 seconds.
- "Rats Cook" which runs for 57 seconds.
- "The Review" which runs for 40 seconds.
- "La Ratatouille" which runs for 1 minute 52 seconds.

Next up are 10 documentary shorts that include:

- "Care and Feeding of Your CG Rat" runs for 3 minutes 34 second and takes a look at the making of the rat characters for the film.
- "Building Paris" runs for 5 minutes 58 seconds and takes a look at the research conducted for and the creating of the CG Paris backdrop in which the film takes place.
- "Tiny Rat Camera" runs for 3 minutes 26 seconds and takes a look at the framing of the film, the complexity and challenge considering the size difference between a rat and a human.
- "Woman in a Man's World" runs for 5 minutes 5 seconds and takes a look at the character of Colette and the female animators at Pixar that brought her to life.
- "Behind The Swinging Door" runs for 4 minutes 35 seconds and takes a look at the production design of Gasteau's and the inspiration behind it.
- "Something New" runs for 4 minutes 34 seconds and looks at the challenge of not making things force and adding spontaneity to the animation.
- "Where the Color Isn't" runs for 4 minutes 36 seconds, even animated films need cinematographers as we look at the lighting, shade and shadows that add atmosphere to each shot.
- "My Dad the Composer (a Rat-u-ment-ary)" runs for 12 minutes 45 seconds and takes a look at the composer's scoring of the film from the perspective of his young son.
- "Good Enough to Eat" runs for 3 minutes 30 seconds and looks at the level of detail applied to the food in the film.
- "2D Animation" runs for 2 minutes 52 seconds and looks at the 2D animation used in the closing credits and also in the short film "Your Friend the Rat".

Also featured are 3 deleted scenes that include some intros and outros from director Brad Bird, the scenes can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option and include:

- "Chez Gusteau" which runs for 4 minutes, is an incomplete scene (rough storyboard animation), of a panning shot that spans the entire Paris skyline all the way into Gusteau's restaurant and through the kitchen. This shot sets-up the entire environment.
- "Meet Gusteau" runs for 6 minutes 1 second, Gasteau argues with Skinner about the over-marketing of his restaurant and microwave food while Linguini is on his first day on the job and looks for inspiration.
- "First Day" runs for 5 minutes 16 seconds. This covers Remy's first day cooking with Linguini, the characters get right into it without a set-up of the two learning to work with each other.

Next are 5 deleted shots R.I.P., these are an interesting series of clips presented by animators as they pay tribute to shots that were never used in the film hence the 'R.I.P.' in the title and include:

- "v135_67" which runs for 26 seconds.
- "v190_74c" which runs for 36 seconds.
- "v200_5c" which runs for 33 seconds.
- "v200_37b" which runs for 35 seconds.
- "v210_43a, 43b, 44, 46" which runs for 39 seconds.

Once you've gone through the Cine-Explorer features you'll find another exclusive clip for this Blu-ray release entitled "The Will" this is a featurette that runs for 2 minutes 43 seconds and we get a look at how the film's music must be in-synch with the story and takes a look at a specific scene where you can watch it with the final score or an alternate score.

Also featured is "Remembering Dan Lee" a featurette that runs for 3 minutes and pays tribute to Lee, a Pixar animator who sadly passed away during the production of this film. Fellow colleagues and friends talk about his work and what it meant to them and the films he worked on in this exclusive clip.

Yet another Blu-ray exclusive is "Gasteau's Gormet Game" a java-based interactive game in which you use your remote to help fill orders in the kitchen, if you fail you loose a star rating.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "Disney Features" which runs for 53 seconds.
- "Wall-E" which runs for 1 minute 38 seconds.
- "Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition" which runs for 1 minute 56 seconds.
- "Tinkerbell" which runs for 48 seconds.
- "Cars" which runs for 2 minutes 39 seconds.
- "Pixar Short Film Collection" which runs for 1 minute 54 seconds.
- "Meet the Robinsons" which runs for 2 minutes 29 seconds.

For cinephiles and home theater enthusiasts the disc also features an A/V calibration test for appropriate settings to view this film.

Packaging

This Blu-ray is packaged in a standard case housed in a cardboard slip-cover.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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