I Want a Plush Doll of Anton Ego

I’ve seen very few of the big films this summer. For some reason, they all turn me off, even when I liked previous films in the franchise.

Ratatouille, on the other hand, is fantastic. Whatever Brad Bird wants to make next, I’ll be first in line to see it: I love all three of his films, but Ratatouille the most of all. I’m sure it’s partly because I’m a foodie, but there’s a lot more to the film. A lot of critics have picked up on the anomaly of a mainstream movie at least partially aimed at children that is praising good taste and a life devoted to aesthetic pleasure. What I think is almost more startling is that it is a film whose most emotionally moving scene centers on the importance and usefulness of cultural criticism when it is done honestly, on the importance of discerning judgements about taste and beauty. It might be the first time I’ve ever found myself tearing up while listening to a critic read a theoretical statement about his craft.

What I like is also that Bird isn’t an axe-grinding crank about his messages: they’re gentle but heartfelt, open to contradiction and nested in character and circumstance rather than written on neon floating above the story.

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4 Responses to I Want a Plush Doll of Anton Ego

  1. withywindle says:

    I also very much liked Ratatouille, and, now that you mention it, the affirmation of criticism is indeed one of the good parts of the movie. I do also note that the movie contains “I’m a young rebel, that’s good, eventually mommy and daddy will come around and realize how right I was all along” trope, which I find 1) cliche, and 2) wrongheaded. But I note this in minor key; what is good about the movie is far more singlar and worthy of note than what is not.

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    It’s almost an inevitable cliche in films of this kind, but at least:

    1) Remy is ambivalent about his choices, and by the end conscious of the ways in which his choices are personal rather than generic
    2) The father throws in with Remy but doesn’t agree necessarily with him about his art–which strikes me as a lot closer to the way this shakes out in real life (a supportive parent may help an adult child with his art or avocation without really liking what the child does).

  3. emschwar says:

    Furthermore, I think it’s natural that Remy would think his choices are initially generic, and only after he’s had the experience of basically the whole colony showing up at the back of his kitchen does he realize he can’t turn them into gourmets.

  4. For me, the question is whether or not Brad Bird is the first genius maker of animated films of the 21st century — something like that, and counting the 1999 release of “Iron Giant” as 21st C. Both “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” are brilliant and “Iron Giant” is good too, though I find it a bit draggy. I know that feature-length animated films have to have directors. But I don’t care who most of those directors are — including Lassiter. But I’m going to be watching Bird closely.

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