Anyone Can Be A Movie Character: A Quick Review of Ratatouille

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I had some reservations about the motion picture Ratatouille, pronounced as rat-a-too-ee, as to how it would really appeal to people especially to kids. The Anton Ego in me was somehow clamoring that a house rat is simply disgusting and it can not be a character in a film. A mouse or a kangaroo rat would have been a more suitable movie character. Good for the Flushed Away of Dreamworks though the main character, a house rat as well, looks quite decent. Firstly because the movie is some kind of a clay-animation which means that the horrid furry look of rats is eliminated. Secondly the rat has had some "decent upbringing" if anything like that applies for a rodent.

On the other hand, Disney's house rat, named Remy, is portrayed like a real life rat, with the horrid furry look and without the "decent upbringing". Take for instance the shot taken when he escapes out of a window with a recipe book. Remy even narrates, "This / is me." There is of course some exaggeration there in the window-smashing part but it illustrates to us a known point that a house rat is simply a pest. I wondered whether Disney ran out of characters already that its people decided to choose a house rat as the protagonist. I wondered how Disney would pull it all off.

But after watching the motion picture, here are some highlights about it.

The first one is the introduction's deductive approach which starts from the general to the specific. It begins with the world until it focuses on Chef Gusteau.

"Although each of the world's countries would like to dispute this fact, we French know the truth. The best food in the world is made in France. The best food in France is made in Paris. And the best food in Paris, some say, is made by Chef Augusto Gusteau."

The significance of this is that it immediately captures the attention of those who watch the movie. It situates and pinpoints them into a particular context.

The second highlight is the acknowledgement of some problems. One would be Anton Ego's negative criticisms. He takes cooking seriously and thinks that not anyone can cook. Another would be Remy's being a rat which simply means that life is hard. And another would be his having a highly developed sense of taste and smell which basically paralells the job of a poison checker in the point of view of his dad. Right there at the beginning, people already know whom and what the lead actors grapple with.

The third highlight are the sound tracks. Listening to each one actually gave me the same sensation that Anton Ego experiences when the taste of the ratatouille dish hit him. The music offered me a little bit of perspective. Le Festin and the Ratatouille Main Theme remind me of certain amusing and inspiring scenes of some European films such as Cinema Paradiso and La Lengua de Mariposa. Somehow, Le Festin and This is Me can be associated with some Korean comedy like the Sassy Girl. The 100 Rat Dash and other upbeat music remind me of the Brandenburg Concertos. Cast of Cooks has a bit of jazz in it typical in old thug-flicks such as for instance the Italian Job where Michael Caine starred in. The Paper Chase can be a soundtrack of the Star Wars. Collete Shows Him Le Ropes and End Creditouilles can be identified with a couple dancing the flamenco or tango. Michael Giacchino did a very good job here.

The fourth highlight is the unpredictability of its plot. My expectations were often the opposite of the outcome. In the film, there are always some twists involved. I was about to be filled with disappointment for instance when watching the scene where Linguini discovers the talent of Remy. I somehow had the thought that Linguini would turn up to be the user type. But as it turns out, he acknowledges Remy as the little chef that he even introduces Remy to Anton Ego. I also thought that Anton Ego would be greatly displeased that a house rat is able to please him with a Ratatouille dish. To the contrary, Anton Ego delivers a great very humane speech. Moreover, I had my doubts if packs of rats would really cook in the video because that would be so gross. I was expecting that Linguini would do everything by himself when his cooks leave him. But as it turns out, the house rats really do cook and I had the same horrified look like Skinner's when he enters the kitchen full of rats cooking. Then in the end of the film, Linguini reinforces this fourth highlight narrating that the only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability.

"Anyone can cook" is the theme of the movie. Which means that even a rat can cook. But I think what the movie is trying to say at least to me is that anyone can be a character of a movie. Even a house rat can be a film character and a great one at that. A Droste Effect is present in the film. The Anton Ego in it is only part of a smaller picture. The bigger picture are people such as myself who had reservation about the movie because the lead actor is a rat. These people are the real Anton Ego.

But just like Anton Ego, these people in the end recognize the worth in the discovery and defense of the new. Truly, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than the criticism designating it so. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. Or perhaps not everyone can become a great movie character, but a great movie character can come from anywhere.


kegler747 said...

I have a dvd copy of ratatouille since last month but i have no chance to watch it. After reading this post maybe il watch it tonight :)

Novice Blogger said...

Do let me know how you find it. :)

Anonymous said...

Cool review and comment..

It's not an ordinary cartoon movie.

Sometimes, the real "rats" in our daily lives are the people who are hard to please with very high standard and expectations.

Keep on blogging...


Novice Blogger said...

Hey nuci! Thanks for the comment. I agree that you can't really please everyone. I guess the only thing you could do when that moment comes is to keep your cool.

Bill Bilig said...

Wow. Nice new blog design :-) I've been divided whether I should watch this movie or not. After reading your review, I think I will be watching it if it's still showing.

Novice Blogger said...

I urge you to watch it. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. And thanks for the compliment Bill. :)

SEO said...

oh i love that movie its great ... did u find it yet ?