Saturday, July 21, 2007

Movie Review
    — Ratatouille

We went to see Ratatouille last night.  I had hoped to see Hairspray instead, but it was opening day and we were running late, so the first choice was sold out.  No biggie, and I wanted to see this, anyway.

Ratatouille is probably the most adult-themed computer animated film to come out of the Hollywood studios yet.  With its themes of life in the big city, getting and keeping a job, running a restaurant, and getting along with your peers, and especially with its mostly human (ahem) cast, it was a step away from the likes of Shrek and Toy Story.   No musical song-and-dance numbers, and not a screaming amount of bwa-ha-ha! funny moments.

In fact, it was because of the more adult nature of much of the film that the kid-friendly (read: “People who want kids to learn a lesson while being entertained”-friendly) bits sang out as over the top and too intense.  “Family is important” and “You don’t have to steal to be successful” were wedged in throughout the film way too obviously, as though Gusteau’s neon sign were lighting them up.

I was reminded once again (as I was after recently watching the DVD extras on Shrek II) just how good a job they have done with these computer animated cartoons.  We just don’t notice a lot of the subtle stuff they do simply because they do it right.   Think about it with this, a film about cooking: steam rising, ingredients plopping into liquids of various viscosities, reflections off highly polishes pots and utensils — all done so well that they don’t even register as “fake” (computer animated).  That is the mark of incredible skill and technology — magic.

I was also struck by the idea that this is where superhero films should go next.  The Incredibles already led the way, of course, but it was with their own characters, whom none of the audience are especially invested in.   Think about a computer animated version of Spider-Man or Dr. Strange or the Legion of Super-Heroes.  Designs which have a strong rooting in the comics, realistic enough to work but not all the way into the freak “uncanny valley”.  The ability to do whatever effects you need without having to integrate them with the live actors.  No stunt men, no mega-miniatures.  The time is right.

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