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Tag: Peter O’Toole

Ratatouille (2007)

Ratatouille poster

director: Brad Bird
writer: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco
starring: Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Peter Sohn, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Ian Holm, Peter O’Toole
running time: 111 mins
rating: U

Anyone can cook,
but only the fearless can be great.

Over the past decade Pixar has been growing steadily and is now churning out a film every year, yet somehow always of impeccable quality in visuals and heart. Ratatouille is a perfect example of both these qualities but, like many of Pixar’s recent releases, seems to lack the originality of their earlier work.

Food-loving Remy [Patton Oswalt] is an unusual chef. Primarily because he’s a rat. When he finds himself alone in Paris, separated from his family, he teams up with hapless human chef. Languine [Lou Romano] is a new employee at the restaurant created by the renowned Gusteau [Brad Garrett], who inspired Remy with his motto, “anyone can cook”. With Remy’s help, Languini soon becomes the talk of Paris. Meanwhile Remy must deal with conflicting loyalties to his new life and his uncouth family.


Visually Ratatouille delivers a treat, as one always expects from Pixar. Unusually there is a large cast of human characters, not as overtly stylised as The Incredibles but still retaining a cartoonish appearance. Fur has long been one of Pixar’s strengths and cute rats look wonderful, showing off their coats under a variety of conditions, often drenched and even electrified! Most of the film occurs in enclosed spaces but the outside shots of Paris are breathtakingly recreated with incredible detail. The outdoor highlight is a chase through Paris which is simply one of the best action sequences I’ve seen recently in any medium.

The voice acting is capable but unremarkable, though this elevates Pixar above most of its mainstream competition where celebrity voice talent overpowers the characters themselves. The exception is Peter O’Toole’s ominous food critic Anton Ego. Of note is that there is much successful visual, physical comedy here, unusual in a film that is clearly designed for both children and adults. Usually the physical side is reserved for weaker gags to appeal to the younger audience. Unlike other family films that resort exclusively to middle-of-the-road material to appease everyone, here plenty of elements are geared at different sections of the audience so that everyone is kept entertained. There are humorous digs at the French and the inherent snobbery of haute cuisine, but it is always playful rather than mean spirited.

Linguini and Colette

The chief criticism is that beyond the initial creative conceit of a gourmet rat in a kitchen, the story unfolds in a charming but utterly predictable manner. Indeed this feels like a culmination of an alarming trend with Pixar as their unique storytelling spirit of the Toy Story to Monsters, Inc heyday gradually slips away. It is telling that Pixar releases now mark the central focus of the Disney calendar, because it seems the studio is becoming subsumed into its publisher: this tale is exactly what one would expect of a Disney cartoon a few decades ago. Although little is known about the plot for the forthcoming robotic Wall-E, one is hopeful that it may buck the trend.

So Ratatouille remains at the peak of animated fare with a providing much for both children and adults to enjoy. Yet while its polish is undeniable, one cannot help feel that, like Cars, it fails to live up to the legacy that precedes it. Nevertheless it remains one of the top family films of the year, further cementing Pixar’s dominant position.

rating: 3/4

Troy (2004)

director: Wolfgang Petersen
starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Peter O’Toole
running time: 165 mins
rating: 15

TroyLoosely based on Homer’s Illiad, the intended appeal of Peterson’s film is clear from the cast of tanned, toned male leads. Resplendent with armies of impressive proportions and a decently (as in good, certainly not modest!) designed classical costumes and armour, visually Troy is certainly satisfying. However, as yet another film that openly attempts to earn the title of “epic”, it often struggles to reach the status it believes it holds.

Much liberty has been taken with the source material, although the basic story remains. Lovestruck Trojan Prince Paris [Orlando Bloom] steals away the Spartan Queen Helen [Diane Kruger] at a peace summit. Dismaying his noble brother Hector [Eric Bana], and enraging the Spartan King Menelaus [Brendan Gleeson], Paris’ childish and thoughtless actions spark off this legendry war between the kingdoms of Troy and Sparta, as Menelaus sends a vast armada including the reknowned hero Achilles [Brad Pitt].

The most notable change is the removal of the constant intervention of the Olmypian gods in this tale. This decision to remove the mythological element in its entirity is jarring at first, but still a valid one as it opens up the humanity of the characters. We still see crucial things such as the temple of Apollo, Achilles’ armour, his mother Thetis, and his death through a wound to the heel. Yet the significance of these elements may only be apparent to those already familiar with the story.

The Trojan HorsePeterson importantly does not take sides in his portrayal of each side. Whilst individual characters are often rather one-dimensional, the armies as a whole are given depth. Menelaus is a clear war-monger (with an interestingly Bush-esque rant at one point) while Achilles is here not for the fight but rather seeking glory in a materialistic sense. Meanwhile the Trojan side is split between Paris’ selfishness and his brother’s clear nobility. The only truly noble characters would be Hector and his father, King Priam of Troy [Peter O’Toole].

The numerous skirmishes and battles outside Troy are neatly choreographed but generally lack a real sense of energy. The first shots of the computer-generated armada are breathtaking, but large-scale CG battles of this sort have been seen before. This is never as compelling as the comparable fights in the recent third installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The individual duels are far more engaging, however, especially those involving Achilles. Pitt trained with swordsman named Steven Ho and the resulting efficiently minimalist, elegantly calculated swordplay is a joy to watch, and the antithesis of overblown kung-fu showdowns. The problem, however, is that we have the occassional bizarrely unrealistic moments as clashing armies pauses mid-battle to become an impromptu specatating crowd for a fight between two leads. Further, the pace does drag once the armies breach the city, as the battle is pretty much over.

Hector and ParisThere are some great performances here, notably Bana as the noble but troubled Hector and O’Toole’s grave Priam. Sean Bean makes a delightful appearance as the likably roguish Odysseus, and Pitt does display much of Achilles angsty arrogance in his hunt for eternal glory. Unfortunately his role is marred by a camera that attempts to capture far more of his body than talent. The writers’ attempt to “humanise” him through a newly added romance with Brisies is largely unconvincing. Further problems rise with Bloom who really has yet to turn in a solid dramatic performance, and here he seems rather too much of a whinging coward for us to understand why Helen would leave with him in the first place (put simply, his performance lacks the balance breadth of the others). Kruger adds little to Helen, but one supposes her role is essentially just to look pretty which she does well enough, if not in any striking way.

Troy is both energetic and engaging to watch, but while capturing such an epic battle may require its duration of 165 minutes, it varies widely in its ability to maintain the audience’s interest as many sequences stumble to TV-historic-drama level, while the battle scenes are often tired and lacking in any real originality. It never truly feels as epic as it tries to suggest, and in part the choice to remove the mythological aspect was a double-edged sword as it also removes the wider notions of destiny guiding the lives of these men and armies. However, the highlights are certainly worth the effort, with some genuinely impressive performances, costumes and, above all, the uniquely ruthless swordplay of Pitt’s Achilles.

rating: 2/4

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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