Ratatouille from Pixar

We saw Ratatouille today, and it was delicious.

These days, humor seems to rely primarily on stupidity. Animated films depend on derivativeness. Ratatouille is an astounding break from this sad trend.

The plot has many of the typical devices, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. There are the unlikely buddies who find their friendship tested. There is the young man’s, well rat’s, struggle to be independent from his family without completely breaking those ties. And, of course, there is the bad guy out to cheat the hero of his birthright.

Writer/director Brad Bird, who is also responsible for The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, treats his subject with wit, charm, and, above all, intelligence. I wouldn’t begin to try to give examples. For one thing, I couldn’t capture the beauty of the film. For another, you wouldn’t want me giving anything away, now would you?

There is one small scene I’d like to talk about though. At one point, during the movie, Remy leaves his family to rush to the aid of Linguini. Remy’s father cries out, “but why?” Remy answers, “because I’m a cook!” The rat had honor and drive. The rat was a cook, not a chef. At that moment, I couldn’t help wondering what Anthony Bourdain would have to say about the movie given his disdain for chefs and support of cooks. I wasn’t surprised to see a special thank you to Bourdain as the credits rolled.

Bird made the sublime choice of hiring Thomas Keller as a consultant on the film. In the food world, Keller’s name carries tremendous weight, but many other chefs might have been chosen. To me, there was no better choice than Keller, because Keller himself is not a trained chef. Of course the education Keller has received in food has been a bit more orthodox than that of a rat living in the walls of a French country home and watching cooking shows, but Keller, like Remy, is self-made. What better choice?

For the folks out there with kids, you have to go see this movie. After all, what child doesn’t love to see an animated rat triumph. For the foodies out there, you have to see it too. The attention to detail is magnificent, from the mixer that you can identify as nearly matching your own to the Mauviel copper pots to the La Cornue stoves that most of us will never be able to afford. Go. Spring for a movie ticket and live life in a Paris kitchen if only for a while.

La Tourelle adieu
Summer cooking classes

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