Writing this, I realized that there are many ways you can approach Ratatouille, which is probably it’s main weakness. First and foremost, you can write about the lead character Remy, which is a rat, and approach how inappropriate this is for a movie about food.
Second, you can talk about the food, and the fact that this is probably the best food movie I’ve ever watched in a long long time, and how the scene where the lead bad person Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole) is brought back to his youth after he eats some of Remy’s Ratatouille (which apparently is a peasant dish. I wouldn’t know since I wouldn’t even know where to find some), is somewhat similar to how I feel whenever I have some Sinigang sa Miso – a simple sour fish broth which is probably equally humble yet I’d elect to have as my very last dish on Earth if I were to be a prisoner on death row.
Third is, as I’ve mentioned above, Disney – Pixar’s absolutely superb movie making magic, and the fact that they have in the last few years produced some of the most fantastic movies in the likes of Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Toy Story and A Bug’s Life – all understated, fully animated features that to me, represent hope for great movie making in the classic style. Here is a movie company that understands the use of full animation as a tool rather than an end in itself, a Hollywood movie company apparently staffed by artists who know that just making something colorful and loud and hiring big stars to voice them does not necessarily a great movie make – no matter how much money it ends up making anyway.
And those are just some of the things I think about when thinking about Ratatouille. All interesting for sure, but unfortunately, a sign that I do not really know what to make of it.
What this movie says to me at the end of it all is a jumbled mess. It was obvious at the start it was going to be about Remy’s proving himself to his father and eventually finding himself, and although that found some closure at the end there was also the story about Linguini (the human character Remy ‘controls’), Linguini’s romance with fellow chef Colette, and even something about Chef Gusteau’s restaurant and staff finding a way to survive and remain loyal to it’s owner’s vision inspite of Chef Skinner’s cheapening of its products.
Pardon the analogy, but in the end the movie felt like it just had too many chefs. That somehow, along the way in telling the original story, the movie went astray in trying to develop its other subplots, namely Linguini’s life and career, the other characters whose stories the movie felt it needed to discuss as well, plus the glorious food as well as the food, spirit and soul of beautiful Paris.
Which is a pity, because I suspect that if the movie’s story does not hold the viewer’s interest very long, they are going to realize they are watching a rat – and thus when that happens, Pixar’s biggest gamble with this movie is lost.
Because no matter how you measure it, rats are disgusting creatures, and the animation of a whole colony moving in collaboration in a kitchen of all places – hands washed or not – makes me cringe. Rats and food just don’t mix, and no amount of images of beautiful Paris can quite repair that.
I would rate Ratatouille a far 4 or 5 stars to The Incredible’s, Toy Story’s, and the rest’s 10 stars. Peter O’Toole’s Anton Ego is a chillingly effective villain to Linguini, and he promptly steals the show whenever his character appears on screen. Janeane Garofalo’s Chef Collette is interesting and lovable, but unfortunately Lou Romano’s Linguini is limp and rather spiritless, which I think is because his character was just not written well. It’s unclear what his story is, where he wants to go and what happened to him in the end which makes him unfortunately ineffective, and all those Mr. Bean like performances when he’s being controlled by Remy don’t really help much.
Then there are all the supplementary characters, like Remy’s Dad, his brother, the other chefs, Chef Gusteau, etc. etc. etc. Overall there are just too many of them, all bringing stories along with them that had to be presented in a plausible and effective manner in 1.5 hours.
Still, this movie has style, grace and an admirable, if lofty goal of telling a story amidst great food and Paris – two themes that I wish we had more movies made out of. Disgusting rats aside, I’m sure it would’ve done better if it didn’t have that many chefs I suspect it did.