It’s like a stew, right?
Anton Ego made a very important statement in this movie – negative reviews are more fun to read and far more fun to write. This Pixar Blogathon has been a challenge because negativity and Pixar rarely go hand-in-hand. With that being said, there is something immensely satisfying in the ability to wholeheartedly recommend a movie in both entertainment value and in the ability to penetrate the deeper meaning of this confusing business we call life.
There are a couple big lessons we learn in Ratatouille. Never trust a skinny cook, and never trust a fat food critic. There is a third lesson to be learned as well, which is acceptance – to embrace yourself in all the juxtaposition and seemingly incompatible aspects of what makes you unique.
Our story opens with a rat who loves to cook, who is surrounded by his garbage-hoarding, rotten food loving family, who do not understand his fascination and very experience of smelling and tasting the things he eats. Even a lightning strike cannot derail Remy’s excitement in creating the perfect dish. However, due to an unfortunate series of events including a deranged gun-toting elderly French woman inexplicably intent on destroying her entire house, Remy is separated from his family and is left alone in the city sewers with nothing but a cookbook and an overactive imagination. When Ghost Chef Gusteau convinces Remy to take a chance and explore what lies above, Remy discovers he lives in Paris, the heart of inspired cuisine, and ends up in the kitchen of his favorite chef just in time to see the new garbage boy get hired.
Let’s stop here for a small break. Having had some personal experience with rats, I want to endorse how realistic this animation is. The way the rat tails move, the texture of the fur on the ears, and the way Remy movies his paws is incredibly accurate and speaks to the level of research done by the animators. In fact, they kept pet rats in the studio for over a year to study their movements. The other thing I want to mention is that like Remy, I was quite surprised to find out he lived in Paris because his American accent is so well-developed. Curious. Perhaps Remy and Linguini were raised in the same province.
Remy and Linguini become fast friends. As far as animated human-animal relationships go, their friendship is a little unusual. Unlike Doctor Doolittle, there is nothing unique about Linguini that allows him to understand Remy. He is the every-man, or perhaps the every-clumsy-awkward-adolescent-without-identifiable-skills. Linguini himself, when speaking to Remy, said it best, “So, you know how to cook, and I know how to… uh… appear human.” (To be fair, this would likely be my role in a movie since I don’t have any superpowers to date. Although I’m sure any day now they will make an appearance.) Remy equally does not have a special connection with this one particular human. He is beyond the humanoid animals we see in most cartoons – he is a communicating, English-speaking French-born (Sorry I can’t stop this. Seriously? Would a slight French accent have hurt??) animal with the ability to understand and communicate with anyone. This becomes a theme later in the movie, first causing strife between Linguini and the kitchen staff, and later causing our aptly-named, renowned critic Anton Ego to choose between his love of food and his love of reputation.
The moral here is when you find something beautiful, embrace it. Whether it’s a talented individual found in an unexpected place, or a piece of yourself you felt was too different to be beautiful, realize that reconciling these things is an opportunity to become a more complete version of yourself. When Remy is able to reconcile his love of cooking with his identity as a rat, he is able to become a chef in his own right instead of a puppet master of a human with uniquely innervated hair follicles. (I will admit that I was much more at ease with this reconciliation after seeing Remy’s colony steam-cleaned before they got their paws into the kitchen.)
-In the scene where Alfredo falls into the river, the animators actually had a model dressed in a chef outfit drenched in water to better visualize how the clothes would stick to him and how to animate this effectively.
-Pixar had a difficult time getting restaurants to endorse this movie because none wanted to be associate with rats. Pixar even considered making a Ratatouille wine (which would have been adorable) but were concerned that a cartoon animal on a bottle of wine would lead to underage drinking.
-This is the first movie where John Ratzenberger uses an accent, and due to this many people do not realize he is the voice of the waiter Mustafa.