I’ve sat on this review for almost two months now, and even though I’m not completely satisfied with it, it’s time to post it. A friend of mine believes that “Ratatouille” is an allegory of Pixar’s own rise to fame within the Hollywood animation industry, which has degraded since the death of Walt Disney. At first I was skeptical, but there are number of similarities between the Pixar staff’s ambitions and successes and the journey taken by the main character of their latest film. I’m not sure how many of these parallels have been placed there on purpose, but I believe that a much more interesting comparison can be made than a small studio achieving fame and fortune. First, a description of the plot:
The film opens on a televised cooking show which describes the life of Auguste Gusteau, the greatest chef in France, a food-loving visionary who enthusiastically revolutionized french cuisine with his book Anyone Can Cook. Gusteau is also the idol and inspiration of Remy, a rat who is not content just to be a simple scavenger. Watching television and reading cookbooks has opened his eyes to a new world that is not particularly rat-friendly, much to the concern of his father, the patriarch of this rat family.
Sure enough, a human being wakes up to find our hero cooking in her kitchen, and her ensuing fury endangers the whole rat clan. In the face of imminent destruction, Remy’s father orders a full-scale evacuation, but Remy disobeys his father’s instructions and runs back to the kitchen to steal a copy of Anyone Can Cook. He loses his family, and winds up alone and starving on the streets of Paris, where he stumbles across Gusteau’s once five-star restaurant, now greatly diminished in reputation since the great chef’s death.
To make matters worse, Gusteau’s restaurant is now operated by a Michael Eisner-esque successor — an opportunist named Skinner — who uses Gusteau’s legacy to hustle microwave burritos and corn dogs. The kitchen also employs the clumsy and inept Linguini, a mere garbage boy until he and Remy join forces and begin to create culinary masterpieces together. In this film, rats can understand English but not speak it themselves, so a communication system must be devised to allow cooperation.