Monday, July 09, 2007

Ratatouille / 1408


Pixar has set the bar so high with each of their films that a film of theirs that isn't significantly better than its predecessor automatically ends up being a disappointment. Ratatouille isn't just 'not better' than its predecessors, its worse. So its no wonder that it is my least favorite Pixar film among all their releases. The animation is dazzling as always but when it comes to an engaging story and interesting characters, the film falls short of other Pixar films like Cars, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

Ratatouille doesn't have any problems with its lead character. The rat is very cute with its big eyes and red nose and its agility is made full use in many sequences. Its ambition to be a chef is a pretty neat idea for a film and leads to many clever segments. The scenes where he 'guides' the janitor are some of the cleverest and funniest in the film and his conversations with the other rats in his group are usually funny too. The problem is that it has to share the screen with many humans and they are not half as interesting(I can't think of any other Pixar releases with such important roles for humans). So scenes that involve humans invariably drag and since they play an important part in the proceedings, there are quite a few such scenes.

What eventually keeps us parked in our seats is the animation. The design and animation are ofcourse responsible for making these usually repulsive rodents seem cute. Its amazing the way the silky fur of the rats has been brought out and their movements are incredibly realistic. Some segments, like the rat's dash through Paris, the view of Paris at night and the final scene with all the rats in the kitchen, are visual wonders that almost make us forget that we are watching something that was created on a computer.



Recent Hollywood horror flicks have tended to fall into two categories - the watered-down PG-13 movies like The Ring and The Grudge that rely on "Boo!" moments and cheap scares and the violence-filled, gore-heavy movies like Hostel and The Hills have Eyes. Given a choice I prefer the former but most movies I have seen in that category have been dumb and disappointing(the latest one I saw was The Messengers). 1408 is a more mature horror flick that tries to make us think too in addition to scaring us.

The title refers to the room number of a hotel in New York with a rather horrific history. John Cusack plays a professional debunker of ghost stories and against all warnings from the hotel manager(Samuel L. Jackson), he elects to spend a night in Room 1408. But the happenings there quickly change his mind.

1408 is rarely scary. It has a few "Boo!" moments, a couple of legitimate scares and some frightening images but overall, it isn't really scary. Its mission is to make us understand how scared John Cusack is and in that it succeeds. It creates a growing sense of dread as he goes from a cynic to a believer and makes us feel for him as he desperately tries to escape from the room. There is also a nice misdirection that creates what seems like a predictable twist before turning it around.

The movie turns more emotional as we learn about John's past and the happenings in the room get connected to his need to get closure. Things get a bit confusing as we are left guessing how much is real and how much is in John's mind but that does help keep us involved. The ending is thankfully not too open-ended but it doesn't answer all our questions either.


At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm surprised to see such a review for "Ratatouille" from you as I was expecting this review for the past one week.

This movie has unbelievably good rating in IMDB and I liked the trailer very much. Still waiting for the film to release in India.

Does the involvement of the humans is the only thing that went wrong or is there any other reasons too? Just wondering...

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

I agree quite a bit with you on Ratatouille.
I was not impressed with the storyline per se. Apparently there is a bit of Proust and some real life incidents in the story that appeal to a lot of folks. The almost real kitchen setup show they put some effort in getting it right. The wines shown were authentic, as much as you can get in toon world.

There is one scene where the rat is running away from Linguini after he opens the jar. You see it in shadows and the rat's chest is beating and you forget that it is animated.

At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB, have ya had time to catch up on either version of Mani Ratnam's Guru? ....

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, I haven't seen Cars or Finding Nemo, but have seen bits and pieces of the Incredibles. But I can tell you that I don't compare one animated feature with another... After all, it would be unfair to try to compare two different animated features mostly designed for the kiddies in our population and judge them with our adult sensibilities.

The adult in us invariably gets the better of us when we watch animated features and somehow our expectations are at par with the regular movie features showing in theaters.

Somehow, I enjoyed Ratatouille a lot.. It's cute when it needs to be.. relays a message when it needs to and entertains throughout. If anything can be criticized about the film, it would be that it is set in a very normal setting overall and can't boast of any grandiose backdrops or characters. Regardless, a really great film for a quiet Sunday afternoon with a bucket of popcorn, soda and candy! :-)

At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Balaji.. U haven't responded to my request to review BIGB ,a malayalam movie with mammooty as the main lead..Please make some time to watch that movie.Thanks

At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found Ratatouille entertaining and would rate it better than Cars and Nemo. It did not focus totally on the typical Pixar fare of a character trying to reunite with his family (though that is maintained as a subplot here as well!). I found the short "Lifted" extremely funny as well. Monsters Inc will remain my favorite Pixar movie though.

P.S. All this life-like animation somehow makes me want to go back to the good old days of Jungle book, Tom & Jerry

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, this is off post, have you seen the sardarji getup of an actor in mainpage of IndiaGlitz in Tamil section? Guess who???

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

senthil, its not a full thumbs down from me. but yes, only the parts with the humans didn't work for me. as i said, the animation is just amazing :)

munimma, then there's the Cyrano de Bergerac angle with the mouse and the janitor boy. the cleverness probably appealed to many but that was a given considering pixar :)

prin, not yet :)

sandya, "..judge them with our adult sensibilities." - actually i think the kids in me comes out when i watch animation movies. as i said, i absolutely loved other pixar movies and many other animation movies. just that this one didn't work for me. but if u havent watched 'finding nemo', i'd suggest renting it right away :)

anon, plan to watch it when it comes out on dvd :)

anon, i'd say 'finding nemo' is my favorite pixar film. but u're right about the old, hand-drawn animation. had its own charm. my all-time favorite animation film is 'lion king' :)

anon, kamal right? i think i saw a few pics of that getup on another site a couple of months back :)

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

I haven't watched the cute lil rat dude.. I haven't watched surf's up either. Ah... I should go check them out haha...

Anyways... lion king eh? i like it only for Timon and Pumba, they rock!

Sandya; not watched cars and finding nemo? wow!!! those 2 movies are a must watch!

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi everyone

Not sure if u guys saw this on ibn - post on Sivaji ( insult dravidians )

Also read his colleague Anuradha Sengupta's post on Sivaji.

At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fiona, I don't know which one's worse, Sanjeeb or Anuradha. I'd suggest people don't waste reading either of these people's views, because it is the reverse of what they keep accusing Rajini of.. being stuck in the 80s. I was beginning to think that indeed these two folks were the ones stuck in the 80s themselves! :-)

At the end of what seemed like 'endless rants,' I was wondering if their only goal was spout venom at Sivaji & Rajini and nothing else.

We are better off.. wasting our time doing something else than read or respond to people like these.

At 4:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


i think v have the rights to comment to them, since they have published such stuffs on public site (ibn). It is not only abt rajini, but they have been racist.

Not sure if u've realized that due to the amount of comments from unsatisfied tamilians, she has opened a personal blog.


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