The Critics and Ratatouille

In the next NR, you'll find my review of Ratatouille, which I'm one of the few critics in America not to swoon for. I think this (swooning) post from Peter Suderman gets at the film's strengths, and also suggests why it's earned more critical laurels than (to my mind) it deserves. After a rapturous description of the film's many fine action sequences, Peter finishes up:

For all [Brad] Bird’s proficiency as a storyteller, he’s really an action director, a filmmaker who thrills to motion and movement, scope and spectacle, the inner workings of complex machines tiny, intricate, interlocking parts and the airy thrills of flight. So yes, Ratatouille is great because it’s poignant, and achingly sweet, and superbly witty. And yes, it has the character of Anton Ego, the single greatest portrayal of a critic ever to grace the silver screen. And yes, it’s a strikingly beautiful film, with a warm fall palette and a vision of Paris that is mad with ambition and romance. But even more than all of these things, Ratatouille is great, and especially a great summer movie, because, quite simply, it kicks ass—just like an action movie should.

Except for the part about "poignant, and achingly sweet, and superbly witty," I agree with all of this. The film's action sequences are brilliant; its palette is lush enough to sink into; its attention to detail is remarkable. As a feat of cinematic technique, at least in the medium of animation, it may be unrivaled, which is why people who are interested in the technical art of cinema tend to like it so much. And when you throw in the fact that yes, Anton Ego may indeed be the "greatest portrayal of a critic" in cinematic history, I think its no wonder that the reviews have nearly all been raves. (Call it the Sideways phenomenon.)

However, the script is not superbly witty, the human leads are frankly unappealing (Owen Gleiberman called Linguine, the kitchen boy, "a one-note stumblebum," which I think is too kind by half) and the villain is cardboard and lamer-than-lame. Technically, Ratatouille is a great advance on The Incredibles. As a complete work of art, though, it's nowhere close.