The new film “Ratatouille” is a wonderful, savory concoction from the incredible Pixar team. Long ago, the Pixar team decided they didn’t want to do sequels but explore new territory in each of their movies. “Ratatouille” is a delightful exploration of food, fame, France and fantastic characters who at first seem very unpalatable but turn out to be deliciously entertaining.
The movie opens with Remy the rat narrating his story. He is not the cuddly Mickey Mouse of yesterday’s Walt Disney Company. Instead, he’s a rat that most people would want to avoid. But Remy has high aspirations. He has a finely tuned taste and smell palette, has taught himself how to read and wants to become a great chief like his hero, Auguste Gusteau.
When the mistress of the farmhouse where Remy’s colony resides tries to blow them off the face of the earth with her shotgun, they all get carried away on the river and into the sewers to Paris of all places. When Remy wakes up after his harrowing escape, he is talking to Auguste who died recently. Remy recognizes that Auguste is a figment of his imagination, but his internal dialogue leads him straight to Gusteau’s famous restaurant.
Since Gusteau died, the restaurant has fallen on hard times. It is now run by the mean-tempered new chef, Skinner.
In an unlikely scenario, Remy teams up with the new garbage boy, Linguini, who may be Gusteau’s heir, to take the culinary world of Paris, and Skinner, by surprise. The villains are set against Remy and Linguini, including Skinner, who tries to pry Linguini’s secrets out of him by getting him drunk, and the fearsome food critic Anton Ego, who looks down on Gusteau’s motto, “Anybody can cook.”
As one might expect in Paris, this gourmet meal includes a touch of love, a lot of humor, some fantastic action and some of the most delightful food scenes in the history of cinema.
“Ratatouille” is a near great movie. It does have some issues, however. Linguini is plied with enough wine to get him drunk; the rats are not only difficult to embrace, but they also steal when told not to do so; and some of the cartoon violence skews toward older children and teenagers. However, there are many mentions of moral principles to counteract this, and the overall storyline is very pro-capitalist, pro-individual and supportive of the gifts that the individual has no matter what his background or genetic makeup. The movie also has a reference to godliness in that old non-biblical saw about cleanliness, and there is a reference to heaven.
The real Christian theology comes in the fact that the movie makes it clear anyone can be a chef, although not everyone can be a great chef. Thus, like the divine meritocracy instituted by the Declaration of Independence, the movie strongly suggests all people are created equal by God, who grants everyone the right to pursue personal happiness while pursuing individual service to God’s divine authority. Whether the humanist pundits who believe in biological and economic determinism pick up on the radical nature of this premise is anyone’s guess, but it is nice to see a movie taking the side of free enterprise and freedom to be who you want to be.