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Good cartoon that breaks the rules
Just got back from seeing it, a few things first to note:
1. As mentioned, the visuals in this movie are amazing. But more than that, for me anyway, was the audio. It's very rare when the sound in a movie impresses me, but everything from the skitter of the rat's feet to thunder to sauces boiling, it sounded fantastic, more realistic than real life. The music was very nice as well.
2. I don't know if a lot of people are going to like this film. The story has several threads and layers that the average "Let's go to the movie and turn off our brain" person won't understand or care for. In many ways the depth of this film has more in common with a graphic novel where subtle details are used to give large hints to character development, setting, and the like.
3. The food looks amazing. It's interesting that we accept so much in animation, but that's because the characters and cars and many of the settings have a stylized, cartoony look, but the food looks like real food from the way cheese crumbles to the oil shimmering on the surface of a sauce. It made me so hungry. Now for the story:
Remy seems to be the typical "I have an impossible dream that I'll achieve through pluck and determination" that's been seen in tons of Disney Cartoons, but there is a emotional and moral depth to him that makes him stand apart. The ideas of family vs dream are brought up, including the ethics of abandoning either side in favor of the other. Neither side is seen as good or bad entirely as Remy's responsibility to family is tested against his love of cooking. His father's worry and distrust of the humans is completely justified, while his dream being a chef is also justified, and the two seem incompatible. Cooking makes a surprisingly appropriate analog for a story about following dreams. The conflict between Remy, who has the talent, and Linguini who has the face is, again, morally deep and the stuff of good stories. Also, the question of selling a talent out for the cheap buck is brought up. There were a few times I wondered how they would provide a happy ending, but they did. Many characters go through an appropriate change that has you rooting for them, though not all of them do. A realism that sometimes, when the chips are down, people you thought were your friends will leave you, which makes the undercurrents of the importance of family much more pertinent. Much like the subject of the movie, the movie itself seems to break a lot of rules: There is an abundance of internal dialog, which is suppose to be a no-no, the main character is not only a rat, but a rat that makes some questionable decisions. Linguini starts out as an apathetic wannabe who transforms into a power crazy jerk, (before learning the lesson), there are a lot of very drastic moments of suspension of belief (pulling hair being able to manipulate the body for one). But like the food Remy cooks, it works and it works well.
bottom line, I loved it. one to ten I'd give it a 9.5. Not only one of Pixar's best, but one of the best cartoons I've ever seen. I hope that future cartoons can break out of the "Shrek" rut of simple gags and stock characters to present a more complex and entertaining show like this, but, again, I doubt it will do very well. Too complex and leveled for the average cartoon lover, but it will be part of my movie collection for sure (and I don't buy many movies).
This movie is great
But WHY is it great?
1. Visually. From the very first moments of the film, my mouth was hanging open. I mean, what the hell? Nothing looks this good. I have no idea how they made the cars look so much like real cars, and STILL make them look so much like characters. And the settings? Having grown up and traveled all over the South West United States (including more than one pilgrimage down Route 66) They captured, not only the visuals, but the atmosphere and character America's Main Street Perfectly. Frankly, if you put real actors in many of the scenes, you wouldn't realize it was computer generated you know, if the landscape wasn't made up of old car parts.
2. Creativity. Talking animals. Every cartoon HAS to have talking animals. Only so many cartoons can be about talking animals trying to bamboozle around with humans. Thank goodness for Cars. They create an entirely believable world populated by machines, with tractor cows, and somehow they still have George Jones and Hendrix. The story IS quite predictable, but it's still quite creative. With this level of creative juice flowing in one of John's babies, I can't wait to see what he has in store for further feature animation and theme parks.
3. Characters. I have a beef with Hollywood. They have no idea what life in a small town is like. They either try and stuff their ideals and attitude into a western shirt, or else fill America's heartland with dolts, "we don't like outsiders" sheriffs, or crazed murderers. Thankfully, Pixar did their homework and featured small town folk as they really are: eclectic, eccentric, loyal, creative with their fun, friendly with visitors, and really worth while. The subtle touches, such as the lovable rivalry between the Hippie van and the Army truck, or the crazy old Model T talking to the memorial of her dead husband (very touching), gives a complex and wonderfully, realistically diverse view off small town life. The same is true with the racing world. Wilson and Newman are, of course, fantastic. It's funny how the gravel in Newman's voice fits perfectly with the rumble of his engine, likewise Wilson's distinct voice sounds just like the high-tuned growl of a race car. Every voice is so paired. Bottom line, you leave loving virtually every character in the movie.
4. Story. A little bit A Christmas Carol, a little bit The Sting. The story starts out fast and exciting, like the race it portrayed. The big second act meanders lazily from one fantastic story point to the next, just like Route 66 drives from one landmark to another. I can see why some may say it can get slow, but, as is one of the points of the story, the joy is in the ride. And again, the third act flows quickly and furiously like, well, another race.
I give it a score of 10 out of 10. I can't wait to see it again.