I am pretty much indifferent to Pixar films. I don’t go out of my way to see them, but neither do I actively try to avoid them as some people do. My five-year-old son apparently feels the same way, as he never asked to see Ratatouille until this past weekend, even though we’ve been walking by the DVD cases at Blockbuster for months now.
I’d seen previews for Ratatouille, of course, but wasn’t really intrigued by the premise of a rat who wanted to be a chef. Nevertheless, I was determined to give this movie a fair shake as I sat down to watch it with my boy. I shouldn’t have bothered.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Rémy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is part of a rat colony living in the ceiling of a cottage on the outskirts of Paris. While the rest of the colony is content to scavenge garbage like most rats, Rémy is different. He has more refined tastes, and prefers to eat from the kitchen — an extremely dangerous practice, as it leaves him out in the open and makes it easier for humans to spot him.
Rémy has other quirks as well. He has a highly developed sense of smell, which lands him the role of poison-sniffer for the colony. Moreover, he enjoys watching cooking shows on TV, particularly one hosted by Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), the foremost chef in France. Gusteau’s motto is that anyone can cook, and Rémy takes those words to heart. His biggest dream is to become a chef, so he practices whenever he finds the kitchen empty.
Soon a couple of things happen that put Rémy on the road to chefdom. First, Gusteau dies after a scathing review from top food critic Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole), leaving his restaurant in the control of Skinner (Ian Holm), a former sous-chef. Second, Rémy gets separated from his colony and winds up right outside of Gusteau’s restaurant. This is significant because it allows him to meet Linguini (Lou Romano), a young man who has recently been hired at the restaurant as a janitor.
As Rémy watches from outside the window, he sees Linguini spill some soup and then try to fix his mistake by adding a bunch of nearby ingredients. Rémy is horrified at what the outcome might be, so he slips into the kitchen and touches up the soup. It’s a big hit in the restaurant, prompting Skinner to demand that Linguini recreate the soup or be fired. Linguini can’t do it, of course, so Rémy decides to help him. He’ll hide under Linguini’s chef hat and control his movements by tugging on Linguini’s hair, much like a puppet master.
The rest of the film then deals with the way Rémy helps Linguini attain success in the kitchen and in his personal life. Various subplots are resolved along the way, including identifying Gusteau’s rightful heir, satisfying the critic Anton Ego, and making Rémy’s cooking dreams come true.
My Reaction: Despite my initial feelings that Ratatouille didn’t look all that great, I actually found myself liking (and rooting for) Rémy during the first quarter of the film or so. But as soon as I realized that Rémy wouldn’t actually be able to talk to Linguini, everything went downhill for me.
I mean, let’s see if I can get this straight: the filmmakers gave us a rat that could talk, read, cook, and understand people, but then decided that it would be too much of a stretch to have the rat be able to speak directly to said people? What’s up with that? It made no sense at all, and rendered the scenes between Rémy and Linguini incredibly boring.
I guess one could make the argument that if Rémy and Linguini could talk, then one of the biggest obstacles of the plot would be removed. I can understand that to a point, but how hard would it have been to come up with other problems that a rat who wants to be a chef would potentially face?
And I wasn’t the only one in my household who didn’t like this film. My son was bored throughout, and didn’t even bother to finish it.
Overall, I was expecting Ratatouille, with its obscene $150 million budget, to be so much better. I was extremely disappointed with this latest project from Pixar, and give the film just 3 stars out of 5.