Directed By: Brad Bird
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O’Toole, Brad Garrett and Janeane Garofalo
Screenplay By: Brad Bird
Original Release: June 29, 2007
We all have favorites. It’s a natural part of humanity. Favorite food. Favorite song. Favorite movie. I say all of this to let you know that today’s write-up will be full of bias. Lots and lots of bias. The first time I saw Ratatouille, I was just finishing up High School and a little lost. One of the possible career paths I explored was to go to school to learn to be a chef. While this did not end up happening, I remember that this movie came to me at such a perfect time in my life that it would forever have a special place in my heart. To me, Ratatouille isn’t just a movie. It’s a special reminder that anyone can do anything as long as they love to do it. Passion leads to excellence. Ratatouille is hands down my favorite Pixar film and today I will be gushing about it for a several paragraphs in hopes that by the end, you will understand why.
Development for Ratatouille actually began in 2000. Once Brad Bird was approached to direct the film in 2005, things really got moving. Bird actually interned at Thomas Keller’s French restaurant in order to get a better idea of how the food was made and how it should look in the film. The city of Paris was used as a reference not only for the visuals of the film but also so that the animators could get a good idea of the feel of the city. The animation team also consulted with both French and American chefs in order to really capture the look and feel of a high end restaurant as well as the creation of the food for said restaurant.
In comparison to the previous films in this series, which had moments of high octane action, Ratatouille may seem smaller at first. There are no explosions or super heroes or fast driving cars. This is a simple story of a rat who dreams of bigger things, and a young man who dreams of being good at, well, anything. Remy and Linguini make an unlikely pair, but it is through their imperfections and their shortcomings that they become perfect for each other. Remy comes into the action of the restaurant with a simple belief that his hero has given him: “Anyone can cook.” This is to say that anyone can become something great. It’s a powerful concept, and we get to see it play out under the realization that while anyone can become great, it doesn’t always come to us as easy as we would like.
The script of this film might just be the sharpest of any Pixar film. Listening to the characters speak about food and the way it impacts them is much more intricate than other animated films. Colette speaks about women in the workplace while Anton Ego speaks about the power of the critic and how they interact with the world. Meanwhile Remy and Linguini deal with being the outcast and trying to find a way to fit in. All of these are powerful concepts that often take a few listens to really understand the pure depth of what is being said.
Speaking of reasons to rewatch this film, the animation is simply stunning. I swear that every time I watch the climactic sequence with the rats cooking in the kitchen, I notice something that I never noticed before. This time around, I noticed a rat riding a stick of butter back and forth across a hot pan. There are simply so many details in these sequences that it’s hard to catch everything the first time around. More than that, the way that food is animated is to die for. Everything looks so savory and delicious. I’m reminded if Miyazaki who also has a knack for animating food in a way that makes me want to reach through the television and grab it.
I adore Anton Ego. ADORE HIM. “I don’t like food, I love it. And if I eat something I don’t like, I don’t swallow.” The thing about him that’s fantastic though is that for all his supposed evilness, he really is just a guy who loves food and holds chef’s to a high standard. If Mom could make something so delicious and transformative, why can’t these world class chefs? His final monologue about the chef of Gusteau’s and how he has been rocked to his core is mesmerizing and some of the most sophisticated writing in all of Disney or Pixar.
I love the realism of the ending of this film. Of course the restaurant had to close, because at the end of the day it was infested by rats and too many people knew about it. And of course, this means that Ego’s reputation is thrown to ruins. But it doesn’t matter, because he’s found what he was searching for, a chef who truly excites him. The ending isn’t all fairy tale perfection, but the characters still end up in a great place. It’s unexpected and brilliant. “The one thing predictable about life is that life is unpredictable.” This line really helps to sum up this film. No one would think that a rat would control a person with their hair in order to cook, but somehow this film makes it seem possible and watching them get their own little restaurant where they can do what they love is just so wonderful.
Oh man, I could go on. I love the scene where Remy first makes the soup. For some reason it always makes me tear up. The scene in which Linguini is asleep from getting drunk the night before always makes me laugh out loud and the scene in which he runs around the kitchen lifting things to his hat so that Remy can smell them is downright hilarious. The music helps to elevate the film even further, making every scene feel like a jazzy French roller-coaster that I hope never ends. If there’s one thing that seems a little odd to me, it’s that Linguini has absolutely no hint of a French accent. Yet, his voice fits his character perfectly so I can’t complain.
Ratatouille is elegant and beautiful while being hilarious and completely fresh and original. It’s story telling at its finest and every scene just feels so sharp and cohesive. There isn’t a dull moment despite the fact that we really are just watching a film about cooking. The characters are fun and lovable and the animation and music make everything about all of this soar. With a script that is on par with the best of non-animated films, Ratatouille is a film I could watch over and over and never get tired of. It’s my favorite of the Pixar canon, despite not being action packed or tear jerking in the end. The next time you’re making dinner, don’t forget little Remy, the rat who just wanted to cook.
NEXT UP: WALL-E