Brad Bird wrote and directed the new Pixar movie "Ratatouille" about a rat who wants to be a cook and I think it's his best. Since his others are "The Iron Giant" and "The Incredibles," that places him somewhere between Warner Brothers legend Chuck Jones and Michelangelo.
If Cole Porter were alive, he'd write a new verse: "You're the top!/You're a Brad Bird CGI 3-D thingie — " ... Sorry, I'm no Porter, and I don't know what you call this stuff. I always think of "cartoons" as flat, whereas nowadays two-dimensional animation is a big-screen no-no.
Bird's "Iron Giant" was 2-D, but it was hard to think of as a "cartoon." It was a sci-fi movie, set in the fifties, about a kid who befriends a colossal robot from space that the government wants to destroy.
In its sense of wonder, "The Iron Giant" is worthy of comparison with Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T." Spielberg influenced Bird in all the right ways, like the way characters seize the foreground: Even in 2-D, they pop out.
"The Incredibles" for Pixar was Bird's commercial breakthrough: 3-D, and with such a brilliant instinct for the way both real bodies and crazily unreal superhero bodies move through space. It felt more authentic than movies with people who actually exist.
In "Ratatouille," the dimensionality is so vivid it makes you sit up like a rat catching a whiff of cheese — maybe tomme de savioe shaved lightly over truffle-scented petit pois …
Sorry. It's just that "Ratatouille" is "Pinocchio" for foodies. It's Julia Child with chases. Amazing chases: With a rodent hero so light on his feet, the world is constantly opening up and whizzing by.
His name is Remy, and he doesn't share his family's taste for garbage. He loves fresh ingredients combined in unexpected ways. He wants to cook; his inspiration is a dead chef named Gusteau who appears as a sort of fat Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Bird evokes the great silent clowns: The slapstick ballet he devises for Remy and a floppy kitchen assistant under whose toque he hides is ballet.
"Ratatouille" tells an archetypal story: a young person (sorry, rodent) who insists on going his own way in the face of a society that sees him in only one role. What makes it less boringly familiar is the fundamental visceral incongruity of its most cheerful images: rat in kitchen… rat on stovetop… rat in fridge with pink nose sniffing food… All together now: EWWWWWWWWW!
Ah, mais non. Zees movie, she is a feast. Zees Brad Bird: Can he cook!