UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Ratatouille

Animated comedy draws on tradition and technology in equal measures

By Drew Halfnight

Ratatouille
Directed by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava
(Disney-Pixar)

When it comes to animated feature-film fare, I’ve always been a picky eater.

If the American releases from The Lion King onward were, say, a multi-course meal, I’d have quietly and carefully disgorged most of them into a napkin.

But Pixar’s Ratatouille, the fanciful tale of rat-gourmand Remy’s trip to the top of the Paris food chain, is a morsel that I’m certain will go down as one of the best animated comedies ever.

For if animation has been a bit confused lately — unsure how to reconcile its digital present with its ink-and-paper past — Ratatouille draws on tradition and technology in equal measures to achieve a technically innovative yet deliciously warm, honest sort of picture.

The story’s hero is Remy, a rat with a preternatural sense of smell. Inspired by the populist message of philosopher-chef Gustave Gusteau (“Anyone can cook!”), Remy parts ways with his garbage-thieving clan to learn cookery from the best at Gusteau’s restaurant in the heart of Paris.

Though he finds his mentor has died following a withering review by food critic Anton Ego (masterfully voiced by Peter O’Toole), Remy teams up with noodle-necked garbage boy Linguini and, by a precious conceit that I won’t spoil for you, begins playing chef to the Paris elite.

One key to Ratatouille’s success is its loving rendition of place. After so many digital animations set in scrubbed suburbs and nameless tropics, Ratatouille returns us to a rich, gothic netherworld of sewers and crawl spaces that owes much to Don Bluth’s NIMH and Fievel movies. The controlled chaos of the professional kitchen is not just seen but felt, and the enchanting evocation of Paris — night on the banks of the Seine, an atelier in Montmartre overlooking the Eiffel Tower — rivals genius animator Hayao Miyazaki’s Victorian creations.

As for the animation quality, it’s Pixar’s best yet, with thrilling rat’s-eye-view action sequences, marvellous work on hair and fur, and of course, tender cheeses, firm grapes and leafy herbs you can almost taste and smell.

Fine food stands for the transformative power of love in this film — whether it’s striving to respect oneself by resisting a garbage diet, learning to value the cooking genius of others, or embracing “the new,” as Ego calls it, over received dishes — the measure of rats and humans alike in Ratatouille is their willingness to live and love in humble service of a more perfect cuisine.

Author's photo
Drew Halfnight is a father, journalist and high school teacher in Toronto.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image