Just like sports, movies, and music, food is a universal language we all share the same love and affection for. Never mind needing food to survive, when mastered, cooking is an art, something to be admired, critiqued, enjoyed and shared with family, friends, and strangers. The next Pixar film to capture our imaginations and hearts, along with our stomachs is Ratatouille. Inspired by the dish its named after, along with the fine dining that is claimed to have begun in Paris, France, Ratatouille may be Pixar’s best film to date. Certainly, an argument can be made given the track record and path that has gotten the iconic studio to this point.
Just like the title of the cookbook that is referenced over and over, ‘Anyone Can Cook’ by French chef Auguste Gusteau (voiced by Brad Garrett) who’s love of food kills him after receiving a bad review by food critic Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O’Toole). After Gusteau dies of sadness, his restaurant and legacy become a gimmick, something new head chef Jonah Skinner (voiced by Ian Holm) seeks to profit off of with frozen dishes from each cuisine. It’s only when Linguini (voiced by Lou Ramano) joins the restaurant as the garbage boy turned accidental prodigy that Skinners plan begins to unfold.
But, given the title of the cookbook that inspires the film and the events that sets the wheels in motion, Linguini cannot cook. He’s a liability in the kitchen – clumsy, aloof and chaotic. All of Linguini’s credit can be given to an unlikely hero – something Pixar has fine-tuned and perfected since the introduction of Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Controlling Linguini by the tufts of his hair and the cause of his overnight success in the fine dining world is a rat, that’s right a rat named Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt).
Remy takes the title of the cookbook to heart – Anyone can cook, even cute vermin with a sensitivity to smell and taste. Human characters aside, Remy is Ratatouille’s heart and soul, the driving force for those afraid of the intimidating kitchen to step through the threshold and start a journey into cooking. Gifted the nickname ‘Little Chef’ by Linguini, the pairing is unusual, and gross given the destruction rats can cause but Linguini and Remy become a duo like Woody and Buzz or Mike and Sully – Dory and Marlin. At first, Linguini uses Remy for his gain, but over the course of the 111-minute runtime, their bond strengthens and the two become partners.
Following the anthropomorphic rat, the message Pixar is making is abundant – follow your dreams no matter the cost or disadvantage placed against you. Remy’s dream is to be a fine dining chef in the heart of Paris, France. If he can do that, anyone can accomplish anything. While the message is clear cut, the bigger triumph of Ratatouille is rekindling that passion. Anton Ego loves food, its why he’s a food critic. If the food isn’t great, she doesn’t swallow as he tells Linguini in an intimidating statement after declaring his return to Gusteau’s for a review.
All it took is one bite from a Remy inspired dish, prepared for Ego that reaffirmed his love of food, Ratatouille.
Written by Brad Bird with a story conceived by Jan Pinkava and Jim Capobianco, and directed by Bird, the director shows Ego’s love of food, rather than telling us in a line of throwaway dialogue. One bite and the viewer understands why Ego is co critical, has the highest expectations for chefs when he reviews their dishes. Anyone with a passion or a dream can fundamentally understand the sequence of Linguini racing the dish to Ego and waiting with bated breath for him to try it.
Ratatouille is Pixar’s 8th feature film. In that time span since 1995 and the release of Toy Story, the technology for bringing these stories to life has been nothing short of an immediate success. With each film, the animation becomes more refined, crisp and lifelike. Remy, his brother Émile (voiced by Peter Sohn), his father Django (voiced by Brian Dennehy) are furry and full of texture as if you can reach out and grab them. At least Remy is health conscious and demand every rat clean their paws before preparing a dish. A detail added that keeps with the verisimilitude of the world created.
As a lover of food, the food in Ratatouille looks delightfully delicious. I found myself getting painfully hungry with each dish Remy and his puppet Linguini. Maybe that’s why Ratatouille is in conversation as the top Pixar film – every aspect is crafted with the utmost care from the animation, to the humor and heart infused screenplay to Brad Bird’s direction down to Michael Giacchino’s French inspired score.
Added into the final act is a commentary on a critic’s role. Whether it’s film or food, it’s a thankless job for stating an honest opinion on something. Yet still we proceed in stating that unsolicited opinion because we care that much for the product. Ego says it best, “it’s fun and easy to write about something we dislike” but writing about something we love reminds us of why we do it in the first place. It brings joy and happiness; it evokes confidence and fuels passions. Ratatouille is made well, perfected in its recipe and mastered by the finest artists with extreme care and delicacy. Served hot and fresh, Pixar’s streak of win after win shows no signs of slowing down. True pioneers in storytelling in an animation medium, Ratatouille has set a new standard.
Screenplay By: Brad Bird
Story By: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava & Jim Capobianco
Directed By: Brad Bird
Music By: Michael Giacchino
Cinematography: Sharon Calahan & Robert Anderson
Starring: Janeane Garofalo, Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Ramano, Brad Garrett, Peter O’Toole, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Will Arnett
Release Date: June 29, 2007
Running Time: 1 Hour 51 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%