Ratatouille was a mixed success when it opened (although did eventually become the 11th top box-office earning film of the year). Pixar blamed this on Disneys marketing campaign, swearing that they would do all their own marketing campaigns themselves thereafter. It may have been that Ratatouille was the wrong concept for an animated film at the American multiplex try and envision a cross between the Food Channel and the recent animated rat story Flushed Away (2006). An animated film set around the snobbery of fine dining may have been too highbrow for the great unwashed American public not to mention a film that vaunts the superiority of the these days American-reviled French culture. The Disney promotion campaign even had to go to the extent of educating audiences how to pronounce ratatouille.
All of Pixars films come with a similar excellence of quality it is difficult to stand back and look at their body of work and decide which of their films you think stands out over the others. That said, while still maintaining the same quality of excellence as the others, Ratatouille is probably their most subdued film. It has the same character arcs the familiar oddball hero who only needs to convince the world of his unique gift in order to be accepted (Bird seems to have substantially borrowed the plot of the creative genius and his talentless frontman from the oft-filmed story of the French swordsman/writer Cyrano de Bergerac); a slimy double-dealing villain (as well as a scene-stealing voice cameo from Peter OToole as the food critic); a dash of romance; and a cast of likeable supporting characters. It is rounded off with Pixars expectedly excellent quality of animation there are some lovely panoramas of Paris and the depth and detail of the kitchen and Parisian streets comes with casual excellence. The human characters have all been drawn in an exaggeratedly stylised manner one was constantly reminded of the excellent French-made The Triplets of Belleville (2003).
All of the elements come together appealingly, although there is just that smidgen less of the high energy ebullience that usually comes in a Pixar film. A degree of slapstick comedy has crept in in Brad Birds direction sequences with Remy causing Linguini to gyrate all over the kitchen as he bites him; a high-energy sequence with Remy racing around the kitchen and restaurant to avoid being found; a scooter race through the streets of Paris; and an endearing montage sequence as Remy initially tries to coordinate Linguinis actions.
There is also the slight feeling, perhaps due to the projects troubled genesis, that Ratatouille has been put together as a slapdash project, more than one that wins through on its natural-born charms. Ratatouille is never a film that is constantly making one laugh out loud, not in the same way that Brad Birds The Incredibles was packed with side-splitting gags. The secondary characters seem underdeveloped Colette starts out as tough and feisty but in no time dissolves into a standard romantic supporting character; the film introduces a bunch of eccentric outsiders working at the restaurant, yet they have no role in the film and when it comes to climactic scene they even end up exiting en masse. Chef Skinner seems defined only in terms of a polarities Remy supports fine dining, while he is trying to sell junkfood while the plot about Linguini being Chef Gusteaus son comes out of nowhere and feels standard. The film also ends weakly the rats coming to save the day and wow the critic has a triumphal kick but the coda the film goes out on mutes such a triumph. For the most part, Ratatouille makes its way there with charm and likeability. Maybe it is that Pixar have raised the bar so high that what would be a top quality film for any other studio feels slightly lesser coming from Pixar.