As Ratatouille winds down, a food critic explains within a review that, ultimately, criticism is easy, and the real ‘fun’ involved comes by way of a well-crafted skewering. But, he quickly adds, there is occasionally something wonderful, and being able to coherently remark upon this fact is the true joy, the thing that makes it all worthwhile.
Not all critics are apt to jump at such being their personal mantra, but there is much truth in it. In the end, as certain schools of thought would like to tell us, however eloquently we may express our opinion, we are nevertheless merely expressing our opinion. And, really, in the end, we are doing little more than applauding or booing. There may be very meaningful applause…, but there may not. But, sometimes…. Sometimes, however we fool ourselves into believing we are quite interesting, there are moments when our pens slip from our hands and tumble in slow-motion to the floor.
It may sound crazy to say that our story is not at all unfamiliar, but in the words of one of our main protagonists, “Just because it sounds completely crazy, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” Clearly, rat controls young lad’s movements in order to cook in a fine Parisian restaurant, is not exactly well-worn material. On the other hand, once we remove that bit things are surprisingly comfortable.
Remy is a rat, and travels the road of the fairly common struggle against the norms of society. He doesn’t want to eat trash. He doesn’t want to crawl around in sewers. He’s not the sort to want rat chew toys either, whereas other rats would love it. The usual. Linguini is the classic, lowly everyman. He is not so much disheartened at being a meaningless cog in the great machine, as he is in fact so low that he aspires to one day achieve such elevated meaninglessness. The two cross paths when Linguini darkens the door of Gusteau’s restaurant with a letter from his deceased mother which he hopes will land him a job as, if he’s lucky, garbage boy. Remy has recently made his way to this same restaurant with dreams of finding a way to cook dancing in his head.
Follwoing rather predictable fortuitousness, the two come together and learn that one of them is a remarkable chef, and one of them is fairly adept at looking human. Hilarity ensues.
As we stumble through the Linguini/Remy rise through the ranks of the cooking world, or at least one of its kitchens, we are met with a host of roadblocks and conflicts. Some rather easy to guess, some the tried and true hallmarks of dramedic adventure, and some that have a certain magic of their own. Remy is torn between the unimaginable life he has stumbled into, and the life defined by his family and friends. He is similarly torn between the obligations, duties, and mutual incomprehensibility of these two worlds. Linguini meanwhile, is at odds with himself, largely because, well…, because it’s just all too crazy. He falls for one of the restaurant’s cooks, but is stymied by his lack of conversational daring, and the fact that if he could think of what to say, the word “rat” might be involved. As I say, we may have a rat here, but we know this Remy, and we certainly know this Linguini.
Things come to a head when Linguini rises to fame, and we are faced with exactly the challenges we might expect. The Linguini/Remy entity face a good deal of inner turmoil over who is really running this show, and what exactly it means if one of them is really running this show. These challenges are tackled in a different fashion than we might normally expect, and not because there are rats running wild. The movie could be made into something without rats, and we would still be going through slightly different waters.
There is much that might have come from this movie about partnered misfits and their lofty dreams. At almost any given point in the film you can see just where many might jump in with a, “Never give up,” or a, “Don’t stop dreaming,” or any number of spins on what is basically the same, useless, general thumb’s up at life. But, this is a wiser movie. For all that it is fun, funny, and a raucous good time that most everyone will enjoy, here is a movie that has a little bit more to say than merely that which will fit conveniently on bumper-stickers. Though this is a film which will (and I have this on the highest authority) appeal to children, it is also not only a film which refuses to disrespect them by talking down to them, but is in fact a film which talks almost bizarrely up to them. (The exact turn of phrase I might use to comment on Brad Bird’s other marvel of animated film, “The Iron Giant”)
“Anyone can cook,” is the catchphrase of the culinary genius Gusteau, and it is a catchphrase that a variety of characters either hope to ascribe to, or openly mock. Our food critic figures it out in the end, and he tells us that we should not take it for the, “I’m OK. You’re OK.,” soundbite of pseudo-esteem the masses so love to latch onto. Not anyone can be a genius, but a genius can be anyone. It is a clarification worthy of great respect, and in a world where “The Road Not Taken,” is almost universally taken to mean, “Be Yourself!” it is a marvel that those delivering the message get it to begin with.
It’s a lot of blather for a cute, fast-paced movie with a lot of screen-time devoted to rats dodging sharp, flying implements. I am reminded, however, of Chaplin and Keaton, who are somewhat channeled in this film. For all that they didn’t seem to do much but fall down and frantically dodge things, (and silently ‘be Linguini’ at you) they could tell you a lot about life. Not bumper-sticker life either.
At the end of the day, a rat and a lad wind up running a restaurant, but neither quite ended up with what they expected, or what they dreamed of, but then again, they did. The real truth (that all children understand) is that the dream’s the thing. Children do not follow their dreams. They just dream them. Nor are they true to themselves. They just are.
Hilarious comedy that is fun for all ages. Surprisingly serious revisit of classic, buddy adventure. Deep, and clearly drawn exposition on finding real meaning in life, and what to do with it when you’ve found it.
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Art of Ratatouille
From the hit-makers at Pixar Animation Studios who brought us Buzz Lightyear, Nemo, and Mr. Incredible, now comes Remy, the furry star of Ratatouille, A lovable rat (yes, a rat!), Remy is driven by his passion for fine cuisine to become a chef against all odds and with madcap adventures along the way at the most famous restaurant in Paris. The Art of Ratatouille includes more than 200 of the artistic ingredients in this heartwarming film: storyboards, full-color pastels, digital and pencil sketches, character studies, maquettes, and more. In this exclusive movie tie-in book for adults, effusive quotes from the director, artists, animators, and production team reveal the genius at work inside the studio that changed cartoon heroes forever.