Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why Ratatouille will be the best movie of the summer

At risk of sounding overly simplistic, I want to predict that Pixar’s Ratatouille (coming to theaters this Friday, June 22) will be the best movie of the summer simply because it is a Pixar movie. Okay, not just because it’s a Pixar film. It’s helmed by Incredibles director Brad Bird. Now that pretty much seals the deal. You see, in my thirty years of being a film nut, I have learned that, almost without exception, actors will let you down, special effects studios will disappoint, and screenwriters can be pretty inconsistent. But you follow directors, and you can be pretty sure of what you’ll get. Take, for instance, Brad Bird: directed the underrated Iron Giant and then (que fanfare…) directed The Incredibles, one of the greatest superhero movies of all time.

I became an instant fan after stumbling out of the theater, mumbling, “That was the freakin’ awesomest movie ever.” Or so my wife says. I can’t be sure, my mind was blown. The movie was an astounding technical achievement, a touchingly believable family story, and a rocking, high-octane action trip. All of that wrapped into a PG-rated “kids” movie. Basically, I went home and made a secret oath to Mr. Bird: “Brad Bird, I will follow you to any movie theater. If you make a movie about talking pretzel crumbs who inhabit a truck driver’s seat cushion, I will be there. If you make a movie about grass growing, I’ll be there.” Suffice it to say, Brad Bird propelled himself to the pantheon of great directors in my book, to sit alongside the likes of Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

Is it any wonder then that I am so quick to bestow the title of best summer film on his next release, without even having seen it? Maybe. Call it faith. Call it some kind of connection to the way the man thinks. If you’ve seen his featurettes on the Incredibles DVD, you get a feeling for the way he takes a story and characters, breaks them down, understands them, puts them together, and fine tunes them into one hotrod of a story. He is a disciplined, empathetic storyteller, first and foremost, unlike so many of the other animators inhabiting the marketplace today who are mere vendors of cheap, loud, and quick gags and clichéd characters. Because of that discipline, that attention to the process, Brad Bird cannot create the same kind of crap that recently washed up on shore. He is simply above it.

A look at Ratatouille’s trailers shows only more of the same original, rich, envelope-pushing magic from Mr. Bird. I love the fact that he didn’t go for another slam-bang action story but that he has chosen instead to turn his disciplined eye on a smaller tale about rats and fine cuisine. It assures that his attention is on what matters- the story and the characters-, not on delivering a bigger explosion or a more eye-popping special effect. That’s not to say that Ratatouille will be without Bird’s inventive action scenes; in fact, early reviews report that it has plenty of awe- and laughter-inducing action. It’s only to say that Bird will deliver on all fronts.

Does that seem like too simplistic a way to evaluate movies, especially before they’re released? Not in this case. There are very few filmmakers nowadays in whom we can rely for a winner every time; I believe that Brad Bird is one of those.

Do you think that Ratatouille will be the summer’s best film? Can we tell without even having seen it? Have you also taken the Brad Bird oath (please tell me I’m not alone)? Throw in your two cents!


  1. You aren't alone. I loved Iron Giant, and The Incredibles is one of my favourite movies of all times. I've watched it so many times I've lost count (I have yet to take the oath, though).

    And cannot wait for Ratatouille to come out.

  2. I'm hoping your wrong and Transformers is the best movie of the summer. Namely because I'm flying out with my daughter to see the movie with my brother. Basically it's a $570 movie ticket.

    That said, you're probably right. So far none of the big movies have been wowing me. I haven't seen F4 yet, but I don't plan on being knocked out of my socks. Pirates was good for me, but not everyone. Spiderman 3 was a let down. I still want to find out if Ocean's is going to be good.

  3. Mr. Austin, you are either a very devoted fan or very bad with money. Like you, I'm hoping that Transformers comes through. I have been waiting since I was a boy to see the Transformers duke it out in love action. I don't, however, have alot of faith in director Michael Bay. He is simply incapable of making anything better than some great images and a few scenes of high drama. As far as continuously good story and characters, Bay is too pumped full of testosterone to calm down and think about those things. No, he's on to the next ADHD, super FX extravaganza sequence. All I'm saying is, it is impossible that Bay will whip out a masterpiece on par with LOTR, Star Wars, or The Matrix Trilogy. Even if it's his best, it won't really be that good. Alas...

  4. I have to agree with you that because it's a Pixar film (and along with your assessment of the director) this will be a great movie. Best movie of the summer? I'm not ready to give it that title until the summer is over and I've spent multiple paychecks on movie tickets.

    Movie industry, hy do you test our wallets so!?

  5. Heh, yeah, I am bad with money. But I grew up on Transformers and my brother's birthday is June 29th, so I thought it'd be a nice present.

    Bay has his place in movies, and I believe it's out in the backyard on a summer Saturday afternoon with a grill, some buddies and probably a dog. He makes two hour music videos and I'm perfectly ok with that. I mean, it's giant robots from space, it's not like it has to be Kubrick. I'm hoping Spielberg rubbed off on him a touch.


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