April 27, 2012

Ratatouille - Movie Review

Pixar's Brad Bird has outdone himself with Ratatouille, earning a well-deserved Oscar for best animated film.
The film's unlikely lead is a young rat named Remy, who is drawn to create taste sensations as he observes the late, great Chef Gusteau do on television. His dangerous attraction to the kitchen of the country home he and his extended rodent family inhabit leads to their discovery and flight down the river.

Remy finds himself in Paris, at Gusteau's restaurant. Much of the movie takes place here, where we learn how the back-of-house operations work. To save a pot of soup from awkward youth Linguini's unskilled additions, Remy risks life and limb, nearly ending up drowned in the Seine.

A highly unusual and hilarious collaboration between the two would-be cooks leads to Linguini's training by Collette, a beautiful and gifted cook. While Linguini garners undeserved fame, unscrupulous Chef attempts to market frozen fast food with the late Gusteau's image and reputation.

The biggest challenge comes when Anton Ego visits to critique the resurrected restaurant. They serve him peasant dish ratatouille; and it has a revelatory effect on him.

This is a Disney film; so all ends well. But it is also a Brad Bird film; so how every one of the complexly interwoven story lines resolves is not so predictable.

Key Lessons from Ratatouille:
  • The importance of proper food handling. 
  • The barriers to women in haute cuisine. 
  • The many ways to create community. 
  • What happens when differences within a family cause a split, and how love can overcome the divide. The ability of even the humblest creatures to live a hand-crafted life. 
And of course the film centers on the theme of cooking as a creative act. As Chef Gusteau says,
 "Great cooking is not for the faint of heart. You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work. And you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true: anyone can cook - but only the fearless can be great." 
An excellent analogy for life.

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