In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and themselves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.
The Unique Premise
Pixar has always been good at creating dynamic partnerships. Sure, these characters get angry with one another, but they compliment each other very nicely. Marlin can’t forget the past, and Dory can’t remember the past. In Ratatouille, such a partnership exists, and although this partnership lays the groundwork for the movie’s unique premise, there is a far more interesting character pair constantly driving the story forward.
Pixar begins with another prologue. We are introduced to a young, lively, and chubby chef who claims anyone can cook. To which a old, deathly, and sleek critic responds by dismissing such claims. Fittingly, the critic gives the chef a bad review, and in dramatic fashion, the chef dies.
The actual plot takes some time to get going, but Pixar seems to realize this and breezes through the first setting in an elder lady’s house.
Remy, a rat with an incredible talent for cooking, gets separated from his rat family. But in a stroke of improbable luck, Remy finds himself at the world’s central hub for cuisine, and that is Paris.
It is here where he finds the chef’s restaurant and a “garbage boy” named Linguini who doesn’t seem to be good at anything. Whereas Remy can’t make the most of his talent because of his circumstances, Linguini can’t make the most of his circumstances because his lack of talent. Hence, a logical partnership forms, and Linguini shortly rises to fame.
Now, there are some complications involving a stereotypical villain, Linguini being the chef’s son, inheritance issues, Remy’s family, and a love story which honestly bog down the true narrative being threaded here, but it’s all fairly enjoyable and never a detriment to what’s really being told.
As with all movie secrets, Linguini has to reveal his big secret to his kitchen. I say it is his kitchen because it turns out Linguini is the chef’s son, and as his son, the chef’s will writes of his inheritance. And Linguini, being usually inarticulate, actually improvises a remarkable speech. In most movies, this speech would be inspiring enough to win over any opposition, but not in a Pixar movie. His chefs abandon him after the truth is told, as any chef probably would after such reveal.
To make things even worse, the critic who doesn’t believe anyone can cook, waits, anxiously, for his meal.
The Pixar Moment
Ratatouille begins with a thesis from the chef: anyone can cook. But do we really believe this? Can anyone cook? To me, it’s as cheesy as “everyone is a winner” or “if you just believe you can make anything happen.”
In this way, we are all critics. We critique our friend’s hair, our neighbor’s lawn, our teacher’s handwriting, our boss’s clothes, etc. And as an amateur movie critic, I waited, patiently, for the critic’s review of the ratatouille Remy prepares him.
The critic’s review finishes as such:
In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.
By now, the pair I was referring to in the Unique Premise section must be obvious: that pair is Anton Ego and Chef Gusteau. Chef Gusteau presents one end of the spectrum. It’s the kid that really believed your mom when she said you were the most special person in the entire world. Anton Ego presents the other end of that spectrum. He is your adult self who has realized that maybe you aren’t the most special person in the world. This pair of two extremes, of two conflicting ideologies thematically drives the story forward, constantly rubbing on each other until they compromise in the middle. Not anyone can cook. Even half of Gusteau’s genes couldn’t give Linguini an ounce of his talent. But, as Anton Ego finds out, a literal interpretation of those words does not capture the spirit of Gusteau’s motto. When your mom said you are the most special person in the entire world, she meant you are the most special person in the entire world to her. And I’m willing to bet you are. Ratatouille begins with a thesis, and as the events in the story unfolds, the thesis evolves. Ratatouille is one of those rare movies that makes me believe in a cheesy line like “anyone can cook,” one who needed as much convincing as Anton Ego did.
Had Anton Ego’s review been said out-loud in the beginning portion of this movie, I probably would have been offended. A critic’s work is not easy. I risk a lot with my opinion. But in the grand scheme of things, I don’t risk a lot. My work is a lot easier than those who worked on the production of Ratatouille for probably 2 years. Here, I spend a couple of hours typing away at my keyboard, with no filming experience, and yet exercise a certain power over them. Ironically, Anton Ego actually loses his power. Something I absolutely adore about Ratatouille is that it refuses to be trash that’s been recycled.
The rat family that helped Remy prepare the ratatouille closes down Gusteau’s restaurant. Anton Ego’s glowing review of a restaurant ravaged by rats costs him his job. And still, in the end, you can see Anton Ego happily ordering from his new hot restaurant called La Ratatouille featuring chef Remy and waiter Linguini. I too would be more than happy to retire my move critic hobby if I owned a movie studio called Pixar featuring directors like Brad Bird producing me films as scrumptious as Ratatouille.
Final Grade: A- (92%)–The food is mouthwatering, but it is the story that is warm, wholesome, and filling.