tek's rating: ½

Ratatouille (G)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

Well, I mainly wanted to see this because it was made by Brad Bird, who also made one of my favorite movies ever, The Incredibles. Of course it was also animated by Pixar, and you can certainly see the visual similarties between the two movies, and the writing style also has a similar voice. So of course I enjoyed it a good deal, even if not nearly as much as I did the other movie. It's still something I expect I'd like to see again.

Well, it starts with a rat named Rémy, who has a very keen sense of both smell and taste. Which makes him a connoisseur of food, unlike the rest of his clan (including brother Emile and father Django, who is the leader of the clan). They all scavenge garbage for their food, but Rémy wants something better. He also likes to watch a cooking show on TV in the house where the clan secretly lives in the attic, apparently. The old woman who lives there always falls asleep when the cooking show comes on. The show is hosted by a famous French chef named Auguste Gusteau, who owned a 5-star restaurant. He had published a book with his motto as the title: "Anyone can cook." This, of course, inspires Rémy.

However, he eventually learns that Gusteau had died, after a famous food critic named Anton Ego gave his restaurant a bad review, so now Gusteau's only has 3 stars. Meanwhile, the old woman wakes up and finds all the rats in her home, and chases them away. Rémy gets separated from his family, and winds up in Paris, where he meets a young man named Alfredo Linguini, who gets a job as a garbage boy at Gusteau's.

When Rémy sees Linguini secretly adding random ingredients to a soup, he realizes the soup is being ruined. So Rémy (who I should mention is haunted by visions of the late Gusteau, who is constantly encouraging him, but also constantly reminding him he's just a figment of Rémy's imagination)... where was I? Oh yes, Rémy adds other ingredients to the soup, to fix it. And Linguini catches him at it. Meanwhile, the soup gets served to a critic, who likes the soup. After that, the restaurant begins to regain some popularity. The place is currently being run by a chef named Skinner, who can't stand Linguini, but has no choice but to give him a chance as a cook. At least, after Linguini is defended by another cook, Colette Tatou. So Skinner has her train Linguini, though at first she isn't really happy about that. But of course, he quickly falls in love with her.

Ah, but now I have to say that Rémy was seen by Skinner, who told Linguini to take him away and kill him. But after taking him away, Linguini realizes that Rémy can understand him. One thing I like about this film is that, despite the fact that we can hear the rats talking to each other in English, humans merely hear ordinary squeaking noises, so it's not like Rémy and Linguini can have proper conversations. But, the rat can at least nod or shake his head in response to things the human says, or shrug, or whatever. So yeah... it's clear that he understands. And while Rémy can't really communicate to Linguini, the two of them work out a system by which the rat, while hiding under Linguini's toque, pulls the human's hair to control his actions. Thus, he can do the cooking and make it appear that Linguini is doing it himself. Though at times it can make him seem rather spastic, and of course there are times Linguini tries to do something other than what Rémy wants him to, to comedic effect.

Meanwhile, we learn of a letter Linguini's mother sent to Skinner, which could have an effect on Gusteau's will. So there's this whole subplot about Skinner, who was supposed to inherit the restaurant, worrying that he might lose it. And he's also constantly thinking he sees the rat, though Rémy always manages to hide before his presence can be proven. And I don't want to give away any more about that. But I should also say that when Anton Ego learns of Gusteau's renewed popularity, he is terribly upset, and decides to return to the restaurant, determined to give the place another bad review. That is, unless Linguini can prepare a dish that pleasantly surprises him. Rémy decides to make ratatouille for him, which is... a bold and unusual choice, a "peasant dish," presumably not fit for someone of as discerning a palate as Ego's....

Well, okay. Yes, I think I've given away enough of the plot, without telling you how anything turns out. But there's plenty going on. Linguini's unusual friendship with Rémy. His budding romance with Colette. Rémy's strained relationship with his father and the whole rat clan. The whole question of what "anyone can cook" really means. And Skinner's scheming, and the problem of Ego, and a health inspector who discovers rats in the kitchen. Etc. And then too, while the film, like most animation and in fact probably most fiction of any kind, requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief (seriously, as much fun as the movie is, in reality probably none of us could accept rats cooking our food), I also enjoy the fact that there is a certain degree of realism. Not just in the fact that, as I mentioned, the rats and humans can't talk to each other, but also... the way the story ends at least acknowledges certain impossibilities, and things therefore don't end up perfectly for everyone... but even so, the ending is a happy one, and probably more than the characters could reasonably ask for.... And yeah, it was just a pretty fun and amusing movie, all in all.


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