It’s been fifteen years to the date since Brad Bird showed us that humans and rats can co-exist in the kitchen in Ratatouille.
This Oscar-winning Paris-set movie relies on what could be one of the most absurd premises in the history of cinema. A rat, Remy (Patton Oswalt), has the unlikely dream of becoming a chef someday. After getting separated from his family in the sewer, he sets about towards this dream by joining up with Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano), the garbage boy at Gusteau’s Restaurant. Remy pretty much becomes puppet-master to Linguini’s puppet. It’s so fricking hysterical that you can’t help but laugh! I mean, there’s one point in the film where Linguini is absolutely exhausted. Remy gets his body moving simply by pulling his hair. Mind you, he’s practically asleep when Colette Tatou (Janeane Garofalo) starts talking with him. It’s like Bird draws from Weekend at Bernie’s and really takes hysterics to another level!
Every movie needs a villain and in this film, it’s restaurant owner Jonah Robert Skinner (Ian Holm). Skinner is the restaurant’s former sous-chef. If Skinner had his way, Remy would be dead. Linguini refuses to kill him. Much to his surprise, Remy understands what he’s saying. Linguini makes him an offer that he can’t refuse: to help him cook in the kitchen. Hello, health code violation!
Sometime after teaming up, Remy reunites with brother Émile, father Django, and the rest of the clan. They refuse to believe that rats can co-exist with humans whereas Remy believes that change is possible. And again, this is why this film is so absurd in its premise. I’ve had mice in my apartment and all I do is freak out and stay up because it is impossible to asleep! They aren’t Mickey Mouse!
Back to Skinner–when he gets a letter from Linguini’s late mother, he tries to dispose of the evidence. What this letter states is that Linguini is Auguste Gusteau’s son and the heir to the restaurant. According to his will, Linguini should be the rightful owner. Remy comes to the rescue and makes sure that the letter gets seen by the right people. Skinner is forced out while Remy’s recipes grow in popularity. Meanwhile, Linguini and Colette become something of an item.
Chaos ensues shortly after food critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole) decides to dine at Gusteau’s. A negative review previously led to Gusteau killing himself. I know this is a Pixar film but the Dead Parent trope is alive and well! Anyway, both Remy and Linguini have a falling out with each other over not rewarding proper credit. This leads Remy to get his revenge by having his clan raid the restaurant. Of course, the raid happens right as he was coming back to apologize! They shortly reconcile but not until after Skinner captured Remy. Meanwhile, Ego writes a positive review, when much people would be freaking out that a rat made their dinner. Skinner ends up getting the restaurant shut down and Ego loses his job but everyone gets a happy ending with the opening of La Ratatouille.
When it comes to Pixar movies, there are incredibly high standards. Brad Bird is one of those filmmakers where you expect nothing but the best. He goes for physical comedy by paying homage to the likes of silent comedy stars Buster Keaton and Mack Sennett. In fact, he delivers the best animated film of 2007. Where else does one go from here? Bird would go onto direct two live-action films before coming back to animation. The work in this film is just stupendous as animators do their best. I mean, the food looks so great on screen that you want to eat it (I’m going to play it safe here and assume it isn’t kosher). There’s no motion-capture work here even if you think it looks that way. This film is 100% pure animation.
This film shows us what it means to be loyal to our friends. Even when our families have their own ideas of what we should be doing, we still have a say in our own story. If Remy has dreams of being a chef, let him make an attempt without getting in his way. Is it odd for a rat? Oh, absolutely. But who am I to question their dreams? In the end, this is a film that is unlike anything that Pixar made to date. Little did we know that they would have us in tears two years later.
In addition to the film’s sole Oscar win, it would also earn nominations for Original Screenplay, Score, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing. The film’s release was a few years before the Academy expanded the Best Picture field. However, I believe that this film is strong enough to warrant a Best Picture nomination. Anyway, Michael Giacchino’s score is a very different sound from The Incredibles. He’s a composer that knows what Bird wants and makes it happen even if he did find it “terrifying” upon viewing the rough cut. Giacchino was inspired by Ego’s words and lives up to the challenge in turning in a fast-paced jazzy score that captures the right mood of every scene. Much like John Williams, he even composes themes for the characters and relationships.
Ratatouille puts the “anyone can cook” motto to the test and while it’s an absurd premise, this film is absolutely beautiful in every way. This is a film that pushes the limits in every aspect of what is possible in animation and will endure throughout time because of its universal appeal.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Brad Bird
CO-DIRECTOR: Jan Pinkava
CAST: Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Janeane Garofalo, Brad Garrett, Peter O’Toole, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Will Arnett
Pixar released Ratatouille in theaters on June 29, 2007. Grade: 4.5/5
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