It’s always tough to write about a movie you really love. That’s the struggle I’ve had with nearly all these Pixar movies. It’s why I was hesitant to do it in the first place. This Ratatouille review has been particularly difficult as it is such a gentle, lovely movie I have a hard time capturing why I love it. I’m sure I will have a similar struggle with Wall-e as they both are more than the sum of their parts.
Ratatouille is another movie I love about someone being uncomfortable in their own skin. Someone feeling like the world they were born into isn’t the right one for them and they don’t know what to do. So is the case with our lead character, Remy the rat. He’s a rat and yet all he wants to do is be a chef. Actually at the entrance his goals are much more modest- he just doesn’t want to eat garbage any more. Who can blame him for that? (And they do explain why he walks on 2 feet instead of 4 which was very clever design-wise for the character).
To start out Ratatouille we hear Remy voiced by the perfect Patton Oswalt explain his predicament. His father Django is head of the pack and doesn’t understand his son. His brother Emile doesn’t get it but let’s his weird brother be himself.
But it’s extremely foolish to assume Remy’s desires are all about food. He says in the opening he admires humans because they “don’t just survive. They discover. They create”. It reminds me of Ariel looking at the humans and saying “how can a world that makes such wonderful things be bad?”.
We learn early on that Remy loves a chef named Gusteau who runs a popular eatery in Paris and has a cookbook called “Anyone Can Cook”. Remy is such a fan of Gusteau he has learned how to read and lives a mystery life in an old ladies kitchen. It is clear Gusteau is not just a chef to Remy but a mentor. Someone who believes anyone and in Remy’s case anything can cook which is Remy’s dream.
Through various contrivances Remy gets separated from his family and makes it through the sewers of Paris (amazing water sequence through the rapids of the sewers). He begins talking to Gusteau who is a ‘figment of [his] imagination”. I love when Remy says ‘you are dead’. Gusteau says ‘that is no match for wishful thinking!”(such great witty writing in this movie!).
At first Remy wants to steal bread from an apartment but Gusteau tells him it is beneath him. So up to the roof he goes and we get the first of the amazing rooftop Paris sequences. Never did Paris look more beautiful than in Ratatouille- I’m talking animated or live action. I’ve never been there but every time I watch this movie I want to get on a plane and see the city of lights. It might seem easy to make Paris look beautiful but it’s not. In contrast, I talked about Ratatouille way back in my Aristocats review, a movie which makes Paris look dirty, ugly and flat. Look how gorgeous Paris looks with nearly every window being full of light.
Remy also see’s Gusteau’s restaurant which the imaginary Gusteau says he has led him too. There is a feeling just like Ariel looking at Eric that Remy has found where he belongs when he see’s the Gusteau sign.
But then we get in the restaurant and get introduced to a bunch of new characters.
There is Skinner who is running Gusteau’s restaurant and hopes to use his name on microwavable meals that have nothing to do with French food.
Then the kitchen staff including Colette the only female chef in the kitchen.
And there is a boy who is the son of Gusteau’s old flame named Linguini who is looking for a job. Linguini is terrible in the kitchen but Remy helps him and the two become unlikely friends.
And that kind of gets the story going. Remy and Linguini have to work together without anyone realizing it and all the while there is a critic named Anton Ego who thinks Gusteau’s philosophy on cooking is insulting. The design on Ego is completely brilliant with a great voice performance by Peter O’Toole.
There are so many great things about Ratatouille. But probably my favorite comes at the end. Anton Ego has just had a meal that reminds him of his childhood (in a brilliant montage).
He then finds out what gave him that splendid moment and we hear his review the next day.
I love this so much:
” In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.”
Think if everyone on youtube that does nothing but tear things down understood what Ego is talking about? To be an advocate for ‘the new’ is such a privilege and is what makes all this writing and watching worthwhile. When you see what is special when sometimes nobody else does and you champion it- there’s nothing like that feeling! It gives hope for both the creator and critic that greatness is always around the corner.
There are so many great things about Ratatouille but one of my favorites is that Remy never really changes from the beginning of the story. He is not like Ariel in that regard. He is an optimist and for the few moments when he isn’t he has Gusteau cheering him on, making sure he doesn’t settle. By the end of the movie the world has accepted Ego’s advice and ’embraced the new’, even the rat world, and Remy is accepted for who he is and what his heart desires.
Ratatouille is also extremely funny with a dry wit script and enough slapstick to entertain the small kids (Plus, I think they will really like characters like Emil, Horst, Larousse and others). There are jokes for the adults too like when Remy is going through the Paris apartment and see’s a couple going from strangling each other to passionately kissing (so French!). There are a lot of funny bits like that and overall witty writing.
I guess some might find Linguini a little bland but I always liked him. There is the liar reveal trope but it’s not too heavy-handed so I was ok with that too. The movie is so strong I will forgive a few tropes and characters needed to move the story along.
Other than that I think it is just about perfect. It looks gorgeous. Has great vocal performances throughout and is about a character figuring out where they belong and finally being accepted there. I love it!
A definite A+ from me.
Also, great job by Brad Bird who came in late and reworked the whole movie (originally Gusteau was alive and Remy starts out in the kitchen I believe). He shows his masterwork at storytelling and creating characters we relate too with huge heart.