by RISHI AGRAWAL
I am going to take a page from James’ playbook and give you some context for this review. I do not tend to like family-friendly movies. I also don’t really enjoy animated features. I have actually seen a lot of the Pixar films, and I often have lukewarm reactions to them. Seeing the insanely good critical buzz of Ratatouille, however, really made me curious. Perhaps I haven’t liked a lot of animated pictures before this because the other animated films, often concerned with mass appeal, just were not that good. Ratatouille may have changed my mind, and I think, hands down, this is the best animated film I have ever seen.
Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is a rat with a love of gourmet food. It sickens to him seeing his brethren eating garbage with no appreciation for fine cooking. At the beginning of the film, Remy’s colony is hiding out in an isolated house. The old lady who lives there often falls asleep to cooking programs. Remy uses this opportunity to sneak into the kitchen and watch the shows, learning his art.
A series of mishaps leads Remy to Paris, where he is haunted by the ghost of a famous chef, Gusteau (Brad Garrett), though the ghost really only exists in Remy’s head. Remy finds his way to Gusteau’s restaurant, where a garbage boy Linguini (Lou Romano) finds Remy making soup. The soup gets rave reviews from the customers, which everyone thinks was made by Linguini. Unfortunately, Linguini can’t cook and so a symbiotic relationship is formed where Remy does the cooking and Linguini serves as the front.
The amazing thing about this film is that it achieves a level of realism that I have not seen in many animated films. The film asks you to buy two major premises: the fact that a rat can cook and that the rat can tug on a human’s hair and control the human’s movements. Other than that, most things happen in a fairly realistic manner. The characters in the film are aware of the preposterous premise. The humans generally react to Remy with disgust and everyone who learns of Remy’s talent is initially shocked. Although the rats in the film can talk to each other, the humans only hear chitters and squeaks, so Remy can only communicate with Linguini non-verbally. Of course, this is a Pixar film, so I expected everything to work out in the end. Still, it was nice to see that characters’ actions actually had consequences.
The juxtaposition of Remy and Linguini is really the heart of this film. Remy is pressured by his brother and father to be part of the colony and to suppress his individuality. Remy admires humans because they have choices and can do what they want with their lives. Meanwhile, Linguini doesn’t want glory or fame. He simply wants to blend in with the crowd. Of course, Remy does eventually feel an obligation to his family and Linguini starts to enjoy the attention he is receiving. The relationship between Remy and Linguini becomes strained and provides as much drama as the underlying good vs. evil plotline that we have come to expect.
Every Pixar film is, at its heart, about humanity. The human may be disguised as a fish, a monster or a car, but it’s still a human nonetheless. What sets Remy apart from his fellow Pixar characters is that he is not a human, but a rat infused with humanity. The rat-like nature of Remy is an essential part of his character which director Brad Bird does not compromise. What also sets this apart from other Pixar films is that, while there are plenty of cute and funny moments, this is not a film that is just trying to be cute and funny. This is a film tells us a good story with interesting characters. And, whether it is animated or not, that is all I want from any film.<