Posts Tagged ‘animation’

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RATATOUILLE (2007)

November 14, 2007

Ratatouille review
Ratatouille

Matt: Four Stars
Tracy:Three and a half Stars

Length: 110min

Taglines:

Dinner is served… Summer 2007.
A comedy with great taste.
He’s dying to become a chef.
Everyone can cook!

Review by Matt:

The Pixar studio has a great record of producing delightful animated family films such as Finding Nemo, Toy Story and The Incredibles. The latter won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2005 (which is no surprise – it was a truly gratifying romp) and its writer Brad Bird also wrote and directed Ratatouille. So expectations were pretty high for this film and, although Ratatouille isn’t my favourite Pixar creation, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

In Ratatouille, Remy is a rat with a special talent. Unlike his garbage-hungry family, Remy is a gourmand and a genius chef. He has been spying through windows at cooking shows and he’s learned to cook like a pro. When Remy and his family are chased from their idyllic country lodgings, Remy is miraculously washed up at the restaurant belonging to his lifelong idol, the late chef Gusteau. Before long Remy is embroiled in the action of the kitchen, secretly creating delights to impress the customers by hiding under the hat of the bumbling and talentless Linguini and manipulating him like a marionette. With Linguini’s body and Remy’s talents the pair are a winning team, and soon they’re adventuring to keep Linguini in employment, win the heart of the restaurant’s female chef, and impress the trenchant Anton Ego, a humorless and death-like food critic (voiced by Peter O’Toole).

Ratatouille is exquisitely made. The quality of feature animations these days has reached dizzying heights, and the Pixar studio is well in the lead (I don’t even want to think about Dreamworks’ recent effort, Shrek 3). Ratatouille is like the modern version of a perfect classical Hollywood-era film, constructed by a studio at the top of its game. The production is lavish and frankly incredible. The plot is the classic three act script – balance, calamity, restorative denouement – and it’s one that is sure to satisfy a wide range of viewers of all ages; although younger kids could possibly struggle with the near two-hour length.

Much of the film’s appeal rests in its captivating atmosphere. As a background, Paris is a living, breathing character, and the scenes where Remy programs Linguini to respond to his commands like a Pavolvian dog are goofily enchanting. There are also scenes of breath-taking animated action which, in my opinion, even top the thrills and possibilities of live action cinema. Nothing can control our gaze with the same flexibility as realistic animation. To top it off, the film is sweet. I found its key message – don’t discount anyone – rather uplifting. Rats have never looked better than in Ratatouille – both in appearance and personality. Even if you’re rat-a-phobic, there’s a good chance you can warm to little Remy.

I was thinking that I must be in a good mood recently. My usual cinema-cynicism seems to have dissolved, and I just had a lovely warm feeling while watching Ratatouille. That’s despite the fact that it is essentially a kids’ film with all the concepts, characters and colour that you find in scores of kids’ films. But it wasn’t just that I was in an accidentally sanguine mood. Ratatouille put me there because it is a smartly written, brilliantly animated, and charming film.

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THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (2007)

August 11, 2007

The Simpsons Movie review

The Simpsons Movie

Matt: Four Stars
Tracy:
Four Stars

Length: 87min

Taglines:

See our family. And feel better about yours.
For years, lines have been drawn…and then colored in yellow.

Review by Matt:

Everyone knows that The Simpsons is genius. It’s permeated modern culture. It’s given us a consistently amusing spin on pretty much everything. And it’s coined so much innovative material that there’s countless 20 – 30 year olds who can respond to any situation with a Simpsons quote. Ever since Matt Groening first morphed his misanthropic rabbits into a dysfunctional television family, it’s been 15 years of post-modern, satirical joy for viewers the world over. Televised joy, that is. The Simpsons never ventured into the chancy world of cinema, where our cherished culture is so often devoured and regurgitated as some galling blockbuster rip-off. There have been so many television and comic book icons sullied by a journey to the big screen that there must have been a hoard of anxious Simpsons fans sweating about the release of The Simpsons Movie.

They can breathe easy and let out a Homer-esque woohoo! The creators of The Simpsons Movie – and it seems all the central creative minds were on board – have transported the show to the cinema with loving care. They would have had to, because the television Simpsons made plenty of fun of flimsy Hollywood cinema over the years – even of TV-to-blockbuster cinema. The film itself opens with a self‑reflective gag that chastises the audience for paying to see a television show at the cinema. Your money is well spent though, because this is The Simpsons on the big screen, as sharp, satirical and hilarious as ever.

So the film hasn’t deflated a cultural institution – phew. But is it anything more than a ninety-minute Simpsons episode? Well, no, not too much more. And what else should this film really have been anyway? The additional joys injected into the cinematic Simpsons are appropriate. Visually it looks grand on the widescreen – there’s some neat 3D animation, a thousand Simpsons characters to spot, and there’s even a surprise penis. Obviously, it’s also much longer than a single episode, so there’s room for more sumptuous gags. It’s also able to develop a movie-length plot. This meanders at first, but is pretty innovative. It is also erected to buttress ninety minutes of mischievous social satire, targeting everything: politics, religion, corporations, the media, and everyday people.

The story features an overzealous Environmental Protection Agency – sanctioned by an ignorant but impressionable President Schwarzenegger – suppressing an environmental hazard in Springfield with a shock-and-awe style blitzkrieg. This sets the Simpsons off on a town-saving adventure. They’re central of course because, as we’d expect, it was Homer that endangered the town to begin with (I also realised, as Springfield charged at him with torches and pitchforks, that this must have been Homer’s fifth or sixth town lynching over the years).

The plot bounces by lightly, leaving ample time for irreverent non-sequiturs and other comical flourishes. They’re great, and they really help maintain the film’s very cheery style of cynicism. It’s probably been a while since the television Simpsons has been this sharp-witted; you’d have to stick together four pretty high-quality episodes to match the film. I grinned or laughed through almost its whole length, with only a few shallow lulls. I probably wasn’t as touched by the film’s touching moments as I should have been – I think I just expect The Simpsons to remain ironic and amusing all of the time – but a dash of poignancy wasn’t out of place in the cinema-length format.

Admittedly, I’ve been inculcated by the enduring themes and icons of The Simpsons, so it’s difficult for me to imagine how a Simpsons virgin would view this film. But apart from missing the many in-references, and meeting characters who’ve been developed over 15 years of television rather than in the film, these viewers are sure to enjoy the bounty of laughs and, like anyone would, appreciate the bright social commentary. But wait, I can’t really guarantee that, can I? Who are you, strange outsider, that has never seen The Simpsons? Would you really be au fait with all the social commentary?

The Simpsons Movie won’t be remembered throughout history for being – as ‘the comic book guy’ would say – the “Best. Movie. Ever.” It is just another fantastic and funny piece of The Simpsons’ oeuvre bumped off the TV and into the cinema. As that, it’s a film that is almost impossible not to appreciate and enjoy. There’s not much on the television or in the cinema that you can say that about.