"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read."
– Anton Ego
I don't like rats.
Never have. Over the years my feelings towards rattus norvegicus have moved from sheer revulsion towards disdainful tolerance, so it goes without saying (even though I am going to say it) that any movie about rats, even cute CGI ones, was facing an uphill struggle with me.
Yet this one showed promise. I'd heard and read nothing but good reviews. It was made by Pixar and written and directed by the breakout star of The Incredibles, Mr. Brad Bird. The overall premise seemed one that had potential for some fun, while the trailer hinted at some definite comic dialog. I should have stayed with just watching the trailer. (Which for some reason is absent from the DVD).
The movie did nothing for me. I didn't hate it, nor did I love it. I found it mediocre on all counts. I didn't engage with any of the characters, rodent or human, on any level. Their story didn't interest me and there seemed, with one notable exception, to be no character growth. While there were some occasionally funny lines, the script seemed to flounder with no real direction. Sub-plots that would have made for great quick asides (the frozen food line) were overplayed, while others that could have been steadily built up (the health inspector) seemed to be thrown in at the last minute.
If the movie had a high point, it was the character of food critic Anton Ego, brilliantly voiced by Peter O'Toole, whose words I quoted above. His progression from vindictive obsequious snob to a patron of the avant-garde was a joy to watch. The visual gags in his surroundings, employing both symbology and color palette shifts, were subtle and effective. In many ways it was like he had drifted in from a much better movie. One I would have liked to have seen.
Forget the feature. Once you put this DVD into the player just click straight on the newest Pixar short – Lifted, a wonderful look at alien abduction. This achieves in a dialog-less 13 minutes everything that Ratatouille failed to deliver in 110 minutes. It has character, humor, and even a little pathos thrown in for good measure. Pay attention every second, including while the credits run, and you are rewarded with one of the most entertaining pieces of animation. These shorts are where Pixar shows its true talents.
The so called feature movie related bonus materials consist of three deleted scenes that add nothing to the story, nor offer any fresh perspective, and a tedious documentary that attempts to parallel the creative process of the screenwriter/director Brad Bird with a famous chef. Just which audience the documentary is aimed at is a mystery to me. It certainly isn't the kids who would make up the largest portion of the audience for this DVD.
Rounding off the DVD is a short piece of propaganda in support of genus rattus presented by two of the movie's lead characters. Your Friend The Rat vainly attempts to set the historical record straight and explains why we should embrace the existence of rats rather than try to exterminate them.
It didn't work. I still don't like rats.
The Movie Itself: 5 out of 10
The DVD Extras: 4 out of 10
"Lifted" Short Movie: 9 out of 10