If ever there was a movie that would give you the serious munchies, this is it. Ratatouille may not the first big foodie movie, but it is definitely the first animated foodie movie, and luscious on every level. Visually, itâ€™s a feast; The Paris skyline cannot possibly look as beautiful in real life as it does here, in this tale of a young rat with dreams beyond his station in life.
Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) has a discriminating palate, and an unstoppable urge to be a chef, inspired by a cookbook â€œAnyone Can Cookâ€ written by late five-star chef Auguste Gusteau and watching too many hours of the French version of the Food Network. When Remy and his whole rat-clan must depart their country home at speed, Remy is separated from the other rats. By chance, he finds his way through the sewers of Paris, and winds up in the holy of holies: Chef Gusteauâ€™s restaurant kitchen, now run by his none-too-ethical senior, Chef Skinner (voiced by Ian Holm).
He teams up with the very junior Linguini (voice of Lou Romano), the garbage-boy, pot-washer and general help, desperately inept and just as desperate to keep his job. While Remy can understand Linguini and human speech in general, Linguini cannot understand him. But with practice, they work a means; Remy sits on his head and pulls at his hair; he is the chef, Linguini his means. Can they meet the exacting standards of the uber-restaurant-critic, Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O’Toole)? Well, of course… this is a movie with a happy ending, but how they do it, with the aid of Remy’s family is where the fun of it lies.
This is one of those animated movies with an absolutely painterly aesthetic, as complicated and gorgeous as one of those 19th century academic visions. The restaurant kitchen where much of the action takes place is a real, tactile place, and the action is non-stop. I am left to wonder if Anthony Bourdainâ€™s Kitchen Confidential had some influence, especially with the characters of the other kitchen staff. It would have been nice to for them to have had a little more of the action, but never mind. I am sure I missed most of the sight gags, on the first time through; not the send-ups of the cooking magazine covers that featured the late Chef Gusteau, though. This is another one of those rare and lovely movie treasures like Chicken Run, which adults and children can enjoy togetherâ€¦ although they probably will be laughing at different things.
I posted a recipe for real ratatouille after seeing the movie on Friday, here. No rats were harmed in the making of it!