When people are asked either in person or online “What are Your Favorite Pixar Movies?”, the first films that come to mind are usually from a pool of these five: “WALL-E”, “Up”, “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles” and the original “Toy Story”. The “TS” sequels are probably tossed-in there for some. “Monsters, Inc.” has a soft spot for others. A handful may have become greatly attached to “Inside Out” over the past few years. And there are some like me who wholeheartedly support “Cars” as their top choice.
You don’t often hear “Ratatouille” said as someone’s favorite Pixar movie – or even in their Top 5. And that’s a shame. Behind “Cars”, it’s my favorite Pixar film. Sure, it’s not the loudest movie with the most thrill-defying visuals, which may be why many argue it’s the studio’s most “underrated” movie. However, its complex script and genuine characters are among Pixar’s finest.
Remy the Rat is a dreamer and a believer. He’s likable yet flawed, compassionate yet at times sensitive, and highly expressive even without saying a word. But above all he’s got a great sense of understanding. His brother Emile provides light comic relief. His father Django is stern and struggles to appreciate his son’s true calling.
Remy’s dynamic with human “garbage boy” turned chef, Linguini, is authentic because they see each other as equals. Linguini and fellow chef Colette strike-up a romance in The City of Lights, all the while dealing with strict boss Skinner. Remy is also enchanted by the ghost of the late, iconic chef Gusteau (for whom the restaurant is named after). His signature slogan, “Anyone Can Cook” is Remy’s inspiration to become “the finest chef in Paris”.
“Ratatouille” is an epic adventure on a much more intimate scale. It’s also a love letter to Paris, the art of cooking, and to those who inspire us to dream big and make our dreams a reality. This film was made for kids so they could become attached to Remy and the others. But director Brad Bird likely intended the majority of the content for adults, as “Ratatouille” maturely deals with the struggles of relationships, including the challenges of balancing work with pleasure and time with family and significant others. And in a deep 2-minute speech near the end, food critic Anton Ego (voiced by the late Peter O’Toole), peels back the layers on criticism:
Disney had enough confidence in “Ratatouille” that they screened the film two weeks in advance, on Sat. June 16, in select theaters around the country. It earned practically every Best Animated Feature award that year, with director Bird taking home his second Oscar following “The Incredibles” just three years earlier. Bird is currently working on “The Incredibles 2” (out next summer). As much as I’d like to know how Remy and the others are doing, I’m glad Pixar didn’t force their case of Sequel-itis on “Ratatouille”. It’s a film that doesn’t need a second chapter because its first is so fulfilling.