I’ve said countless times before that I couldn’t care less for Disney or the work they wish to output. Nothing but fancy princess tales that excrete happiness out of every available opening or fluffy worlds created to reel in the braindead masses of kids who are too scared to watch Coraline and too young to watch Chicken Run. I hate it, I’m not sure why millions are driven to love Disney products, and it’s something I’ll possibly never understand. Somewhat hypocritically, I find myself with a complete adoration for Ratatouille, and I find myself in the same camp that I placed all the other rejects who love Disney animated pieces into. Not a single person I know can understand why I have such a love for the 2007 Pixar/Disney collaboration where a talking rat learns to cook in the harsh understudy of a dead chef in the heart of Paris. Yet Ratatouille was one of my favourite films growing up, and now that I’ve hit the old age of twenty, I thought I’d head back and see if the film can hold its own over a decade later.
Straight away, that rush of nostalgia is the most obvious ideal to fall out of the film. Not a single beat of the movie forgotten, you couldn’t have handed me a more recognisable piece of Pixar’s filmography. The visuals, stylish choices and grounded realism that create the world in which an army of rats flee a small bedsit in England and wash up somewhere in Paris is a marvellous mixture of superb design and a knack for storytelling is clear from the get-go. Leading the charge is the tremendously talented Patton Oswalt, with his headlining performance here more or less enshrining him as a dependable voice actor. Those that fall into the same category as Oswalt of acting/stand-up comedy are often side-lined to smaller roles, and it makes a nice change to see someone of sheer talent star in such a large role.
Remy is a genuinely great character, a rat that embodies a passion for cooking and an inability to do so given that he’s, you know, a rat. Like all rats that find themselves in this position, he begins to control the dangerously shy Linguini, a garbage boy who teams up with Remy to present the world a rat’s passion for cookery. The plot is certainly bizarre, and as it develops it doesn’t exactly do anything to prevent itself becoming a disorienting brilliant piece of film. For much of the running time, Remy controls this poor, down-on-his-luck, aspiration lacking mess of a man like a puppet.
The film is deep fried in Disney’s patented feel good moments, but for whatever reason it works consistently well here. Characters that have a great deal of depth come in the form of Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole), who dismisses the idea that “anyone can cook”. It’s simple character progression done right, and since it’s done so remarkably well, it feels like the plot has consequences, the characters feel more impactful here than in any other Disney product. Even the characters we see and hear little of are fully fleshed out, a few rundowns of who is in the kitchen and why help out with that a fair bit.
My recent wave of fascination with the film probably comes from my new found ability to cook ratatouille and pasta, with glimmers of personal success showing themselves one more time in the art of cookery. My cooking skills are far from competent, but my obsession with cooking stems from Ratatouille (and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares). For those passionate about cooking and not wanting to get their hands dirty, this is eye candy for you. Copper pots lining the architecture of the polished walls, a homely environment while at the same time feeling like a professional nightmare. My personal infatuation with cooking is presented to me on a silver platter throughout Ratatouille. Perhaps that’s why it’ll always remain as one of my personal favourites.