Ratatouille (2007) - Pick
Miracle of Saint Therese (1952) - pick
The year’s best mainstream family film comes to DVD this week, and once again it’s from Pixar. Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), Ratatouille covers conventional ground for family films: overcoming prejudices, following your heart, believing in yourself.
But it’s also about pursuing excellence rather than settling for mediocrity, not compromising principles for a quick buck, and putting your heart and soul into something you believe in even if it’s a risk.
The film exemplifies its own message: A small-scale story about a sensitive, talented rat longing to be a world-class chef in a five-star Parisian restaurant isn’t the most obvious pitch for a sure-fire family hit. But Ratatouille is a revelation — a warm and winsome confection that will be treasured by viewers young and old long after the movie mediocrities of 2007 have been forgotten.
A rat with an unusually refined palate and acute sense of smell, Remy (Patton Oswalt) is unhappy with his species’ legacy of living by stealing. Inspired by human creativity with food, he longs to be a giver, not just a taker: “I know I’m supposed to hate humans, but there’s something about them — they create, they discover. Just look what they do with food!” Then Remy winds up in a strange collaboration with a garbage boy (Lou Romano) at a troubled bistro. But can a rat walk away from a legacy of stealing? Can a garbage boy hope for more from life? Bird and company fill the movie with lovingly observed touches. The climax is not only thrilling and hilarious, but also unexpectedly powerful and moving.
Long available only on out-of-print VHS, the excellent 1952 French film Miracle of Saint Thérèse — the best film on St. Thérèse of Lisieux — is newly released on DVD from Ignatius Press. The DVD is well worth getting, although the bare-bones disc disappointingly offers only the dubbed English and Spanish tracks; apparently Ignatius couldn’t obtain the original French track (contrary to Amazon.com product info, which advertises all three languages).
The transfer quality looks comparable to the VHS, so the DVD essentially replaces the VHS without improving on it. Still, to have this valuable film back in circulation at all is a worthwhile event.
Reverent and well-made, Miracle of Saint Thérèse isn’t really the story of a miracle, unless the miracle is Thérèse’s own life. Blending historical drama with elements of documentary, the film offers a number of glimpses into Thérèse’s “little way” of spiritual childhood, including the conflict occasioned by the contrast between Thérèse’s insights and the accepted pieties of the day.
Beautifully shot in black and white, the film makes excellent use of locations, sets and costumes. It’s persuasively mounted throughout.
Ratatouille: References to a character’s out-of-wedlock parentage; brief references to characters with dodgy histories; slapstick violence including gunplay; brief grisly images of dead rats in traps. Fine family viewing for most children. Miracle of Saint Thérèse: Nothing objectionable. Fine family viewing.