The Ten Reasons Why You Should See Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’: #10 – The Story

I am hereby declaring the following decree that should be followed by all analysts, all critics, all viewers, and all bloggers like myself. In light of the fabulous Pixar creation ‘Ratatouille’, I want to make something incredibly clear:

From this point forward, the success of a Pixar film shall never be measured by its box office results, but rather by its quality. Both Variety (Noting it could be a harder sell) and The Hollywood Reporter (predicting it would struggle to meet box office receipts) prefaced their reviews with a statement proclaiming that this might finally be the Pixar film that doesn’t live up to the rest financially. And, well, I don’t give a rat’s ass (Oooh, I know, bad pun). The fact of the matter is that this is one of Pixar’s finest films, in a league of its own, and its box office results don’t particularly matter. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter agree with my assessment of the film’s quality, but this need to address the pessimists shouldn’t be necessary. Pixar is making great films, and until they stop doing so “The End of Pixar” will be the last thing that enters my mind.

With this said, I invite all of you to peruse the following review to discover why Ratatouille is worth sampling when it opens in two weeks time on June 29th…or, that is what I would say if I didn’t realize that I am quite unprepared to right a review at this stage of the game.

You see, Ratatouille is a film that I’m having a hard time criticizing. Every time I attempt to do so, I find myself writing sentences and sentences on one of its many fantastic elements. And so, over the next two weeks (Yep, I’m milking this one for all its worth), I intend on highlighting The Ten Reasons You Should See ‘Ratatouille’. Now, you might claim this to be some sort of viral marketing attempt, and it really isn’t. I might well be critical within these sections, but only in small quantities: admittedly, this is a film I loved and I am not afraid to say so.

However, in short, I will say this:

I believe that Ratatouille is perhaps the best example of a purely Pixar film since Toy Story. It is a film that engrosses itself in its setting, its characters, its universe more than any of their films in between. It has most of The Incredibles’ fantastic qualities (I want to marry Michael Giacchino right now), but does so within a more traditionally Pixar story…and that combination is hard to beat.

As the studio prepares to release a mostly silent film starring a trash compacting robot (Wall-E, 2008) and one about a park ranger and an old man fighting beasts and villains (Up, 2009), the time has come to appreciate Pixar just like you would any other movie studio: by the quality of their work. And this is a work of sheer quality.

And so, without further adieu, I introduce Reason #10 Why You Should See ‘Ratatouille’.

Reason #10 – The Story

SPOILER WARNING: While I will not ruin any of the best moments of the film, I am likely to allude to them in some shape or form, and this might not be in your interest. However, I will be as spoiler-free as physically possible.

The smallish theatre designated to this evening’s special sneak preview was pretty well to capacity, with nary a single seat left in the auditorium. The audience was varied: I attended with my parents, there was a twenty-something couple to one side of us, there was an older woman by herself to our right, and there were of course kids all around us. This was a diverse audience, which I presume will be a positive sign for the data collectors when they get this information. Because, even with an audience this diverse, they absolutely loved Ratatouille. And a lot of that has to do with its rich story. It is not number 10 because it is the least important, but simply because it is the one thing leaping out at me as I react to viewing the film for the first time.

The story isn’t original on paper, per se: a country rat ending up in the big city and having to come to terms with his two lives is treading on familiar territory. However, what needs to be made clear is that the story does not stop and end with that moment. Like Brad Bird’s other stories, such as The Incredibles, this is a multi-faceted, multi-layered story that spans species, generations, and professions to become something truly memorable.

What Bird does that fascinates me is deal with real issues within what are, basically, figments of his imagination; and these are not broad social issues but rather very personal introspective ones. The story as a whole, really, is about Remy finding himself. A rat who wants to be a cook? That can’t possible be: however, as Chef Gusteau (Portrayed as a figment of Remy’s imagination) says, “anyone can cook.” And that’s really the principle here: that if anything sets their mind out to something, they will be able to achieve it.But it doesn’t just stop at that level: Remy doesn’t just struggle against those around him, but also he struggles with himself. He uses his hallucinations with Gusteau as a way of speaking to his conscience, and he is unsure as to who he really trusts and what his true path is. Caught between the idea of family loyalty and the idea of personal fulfillment, he has to make tough decisions…and he doesn’t do so out of rebellion, but out of personal beliefs. And that type of complexity is not normal in the animation field.

But it is normal for Brad Bird, and it extends to the rest of his characters. Linguini is a garbage boy when he is thrust along with Remy into the high-paced world of cooking. As all of the trailers and commercials have shown, Linguini is dependent on Remy…and he reacts naturally to this loss of control. Even amidst comedy, Linguini is reacting like a real human being, and the story progresses as it would naturally progress…should a rat ever live inside a chef’s hat and control his movements with his hair.

And that’s where Bird’s story is the most effective. Painted against a Parisian canvas, this story feels (even dealing with rats) like real life taking place on the screen. My parents, admittedly not the animation connoisseurs I am, both enjoyed it immensely and laughed when they were supposed to laugh and reacted where they were supposed to act. This story is not derivative of anything, but rather combines the elements that we come to expect in good cinema and places them within the animation realm. It is not a simple story: the villains (Sous Chef Skinner, critic Anton Ego) are themselves complex, existing as antagonists but not as evil, and the supporting cast react and act as people would.

Although a story about a rat, I believe that Ratatouille’s story is something that is far more universal than that. The kids enjoyed its cute protagonist, and its simple messages and plot devices, but I saw something more and I think the rest of the audience did as well: the themes to be seen within this story are compelling, engaging, and perhaps amongst the best that Pixar has brought forth. For a company known for its stories, I believe that Pixar and Brad Bird have crafted yet another amazing one. And it’s Reason #10 why you should see Ratatouille when it arrives on June 29th.

3 Comments

Filed under Cinema, Disney, Pixar, Ratatouille

3 responses to “The Ten Reasons Why You Should See Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’: #10 – The Story

  1. Pingback: Review: Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’ « Cultural Learnings

  2. vzjp

    Cultural Learnings, as such? Then “per se”, not “per say”, please. 😉

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