Movie Review: Ratatouille (2007)

I remember when Ratatouille was first released in theaters, I thought it looked pretty stupid. A wise-cracking rat wants to cook French food and so he controls a human chef by pulling his hair around? That just makes so little sense. But I saw it anyway, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it since. The story focuses on Remy, an ambitious rat with dreams of becoming a great chef like his hero Gusteau, a once-famous chef whose motto was “Anyone can cook”. Despite his family’s disapproval of such un-rat-like behavior, Remy teaches himself to read and cook from Gusteau’s book, only to find himself lost and alone in Paris after their nest is destroyed. Through a strange set of circumstances, he teams up with a clumsy kitchen aide in Gusteau’s restaurant to become an unlikely success in Parisian food culture.

As weird and nonsensical as the concept is, the script proves to be charming, inventive, funny, and heartwarming. I love the sarcastic dialogue and clever sight gags strewn throughout, and the legitimate reverence for food and cooking is palpable. I’m a weirdly picky eater, but I adore reading about and watching movies about food. I would never eat anything cooked in this movie, but I love watching them make it, which is a real testament to the superb animation and loving dialogue. The peppy, accordion-heavy score and warm color palette give it all a recognizably French atmosphere, even if everyone’s accents vary considerably.

Patton Oswalt is awesome in any capacity, but I think this was my introduction to him. He’s incredibly likable and funny as Remy, offering sarcastic narration for a character who can’t speak to any of the people around him. I love the character of Linguini, mainly because he’s self-effacing, stuttery, and really clumsy. Also he gets some of the best moments of physical humor, including the adorable moment when he spins around trying to reach his back pocket. There’s a range of likable and fun supporting characters, including Janeane Garofalo’s aggressive lady chef and Peter O’Toole’s awesomely intense food critic Anton Ego.

I still think the premise is a little silly, but the message of following your dreams despite any handicap is a solid one, and the strong script, vocal performances, and expectedly gorgeous animation with special attention to food details make for an entertaining and very re-watchable movie. It also features one of my favorite end-credits sequences, and I sort of wish someone would animate an entire movie in the style.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Mmmm another food movie, I think. Soul Kitchen for some goofy German fare, Julie & Julia for ladies and French food, Waitress for a sadder, bittersweet tale with creative pies… whatever suits your fancy!

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