Pixar is the best movie studio in the English speaking world. I’m not sure if that claim is too big, but honestly, I’ve never seen them miss and they certainly don’t in their latest, Ratatouille. This film has heart, charm, darkness, love, wit, and just a soupçon of silliness… and all of this without the benefit of any actual actors on screen.
Ratatouille is the computer animated tale of a rat named Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) who winds up in Paris after a slight mishap involving a cook book, a search for proper spices and a near-sighted octogenarian with a shotgun. Once in Paris, Remy, who has been separated from the rest of his rat family, decides to follow his dreams (and his subconscious, in the form of a corpulent chef named Gusteau) and become a cook himself. Now, despite recent Wall Street activities, this is not a Disney movie, where, when I say “rat” I mean little anthropomorphic person who looks like a rat. Nope, Remy is an actual rat in a human world. Okay, there’s a little bit of acting like a human (the fact he use tools and can communicate with the people around him, for example) but for the most part, he is the proverbial little guy trapped in a world too big for him, surrounded by people who don’t understand him and trying to get by. In this way, Remy is just like the other main character in the film, Linguini (voiced by Lou Romano), and perhaps, a little like most of us who are old enough to have brought kids to see this.
Linguini is the newest member of the kitchen staff who knows nothing about cooking and yet decides to try his hand at “fixing” the soup. When Remy sees this he is mortified. He can’t just sit by and let this Philistine ruin a perfectly good starter course so, with the best of intentions, he adds a little of this, a dash of that, and when the soup is taken out to the waiting patrons it is, you guessed it, a huge hit. Of course, this is where the problems begin. Now everyone thinks Linguini has created a masterpiece which will once again bring accolades down on the once famous restaurant in which they work – Gusteau’s, named for the chef who provides the image of Remy’s personal advisor. So we’ve got the hands of a klutz and the taste of a rat and they must work together in order to create gastronomic perfection.
And they do. This is not really the type of film where there are going to be a lot of big surprises at the end. Without spoiling anything, let me relieve your fears and tell you everything is going to work out okay in the end. But you know, that’s not the point. In this particular story, the journey is much more important than the destination. The journey is about following your dreams, knowing your limitations so you can overcome them and risking everything in order to do what’s right. Ultimately, though, it’s about friendship and the cost it sometimes has.
With all that in mind, the voices behind these characters do an admirable job of portraying a range of emotion not found in any film directed by Renny Harlin. Of special note is Peter O’Toole, who plays the closest thing this film has to a villain, the food critic Anton Ego. O’Toole’s voice is dripping with venom in his first appearance and by the end, when good taste has triumphed over bland triviality, Ego delivers a speech (which should be reprinted and tacked on the wall of the cubicle of every critic in the nation) with such emotion that if they ever thought about giving performance awards just for voice, this would be the year to start.
So if you haven’t seen it yet, go see Ratatouille. If you have, take someone who hasn’t and see it again. And make sure you get there early because like all Pixar films there’s a short at the beginning which is pure, comedic gold.
(Originally published at FirstShowing.net)