‘Ratatouille’: Impersonal Entertainment Machine or Deeply Felt Aesthetic Manifesto?

Courtesy of Disney

Pixar's latest animated extravaganza, Ratatouille, is garnering near-unanimous praise from all quarters, currently sporting an astonishing Metacritic score of 95, which places it at No. 5 on the site's all-time list, between Dr. Strangelove and The Manchurian Candidate. Many of the reviews go on at length about how clearly the film seems to be a labor of love for director Brad Bird, the genius responsible for The Iron Giant and The Incredibles as well as the Best. Episodes. Ever! of The Simpsons. But one outlier, curiously, seems to have gotten exactly the opposite idea from the film; Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly punctuates his mostly positive review with claims that Bird's heart really wasn't in this one. Who's right? Who's wrong? Who will stop us from seeing this movie as soon as possible? No one, that's who.

Rave: "Ratatouille is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film … Ratatouille celebrates the passionate, sometimes aggressive pursuit of excellence, an impulse it also exemplifies … [Bird] has emerged as an original and provocative voice in American filmmaking. He is also, at least implicitly, a severe critic of the laziness and mediocrity that characterize so much popular culture." —A. O. Scott, New York Times

Rant: "If it sounds like I'm less than excited about these questions, that's because the movie isn't either … As a story, however, Ratatouille is fun without very much surprise. It's like a fusty old Disney cartoon retrofitted with the Pixar sheen … It's Brad Bird's genial dessert, not so much incredible as merely sweetly edible." —Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly