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Movie review: Ratatouille


One of the most iconic movies of the 21st century, “Ratatouille” was premiered on June 22, 2007 and grossed a total of $620.7 million at the box office. The animation film, named after the French dish “ratatouille”—and also the main character’s species—was produced by Pixar and directed by Brad Bird, the director of other renowned movies such as “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”, “Tomorrowland”, and “The Incredibles” duology.

The main character of “Ratatouille,” Remy, is an ambitious young rat who wishes to become a chef. With highly developed senses of taste and smell, as well as an admiration for and yearning to become like the recently deceased cook Auguste Gusteau, Remy experiments with food scraps that he finds and secretly reads Gusteau’s bestselling cookbook. One day, however, an old French woman discovers Remy’s colony living in her house and attempts to shoot the rats with her shotgun. In the commotion, Remy is separated from his family and swept through the sewers of France until he eventually ends up in Paris, near Gusteau’s famous restaurant.

At the restaurant, Remy meets a boy called Alfredo Linguini, whom he makes a deal with; Linguini would hide Remy in his toque while working in the kitchens of the restaurant, and Remy could help Linguini cook. This way, Remy would be able to fulfill his long-time dream of becoming a chef, while Linguini would get to keep working at his job. Despite facing multiple obstacles—opposition from fellow rats and humans; occasional conflicts and disagreements with each other; suspicion and obstruction from Skinner, the head chef of Gusteau’s; and an ensuing kidnapping by him—by the end of the movie, Remy and Linguini are able to earn a reputation as the greatest chef in Paris, and in the process, build a lasting friendship.

“Ratatouille” is a classic, long-time favorite adored by many. Even though it was released more than a decade ago, the movie is still widely known and watched. The popularity of this movie likely comes from its novelty; the idea of setting a rat, an animal many people deem to be foul and disgusting, as the main character of a movie is in itself revolutionary. The unconventional way the film portrays how Remy and Linguini learn to overcome the social prejudice and economic hardships they face¬ is also impressive. However, the most striking characteristic of this film that makes it so popular is arguably the way changes in the characters are cleverly and creatively portrayed through their redefined attitudes toward the happenings around them. This original feature helps set “Ratatouille” apart from other films because it gives a pensive and symbolic undertone to the film that many modern movies lack.

An example of such deeper themes can be found in the beginning of the film, where the audience is introduced to Chef Gusteau’s popular motto, “Anyone can cook.” France’s top food critic Anton Ego, whose previous review of Gusteau’s restaurant caused the loss of one of the restaurant’s stars and subsequently resulted in the famous chef passing away from grief, condemned this line, stating that Gusteau was being a fool for believing that anyone could cook. Cooking, he said, was to be taken seriously and therefore could not be done by just anyone. Like his commentary suggests, Ego is an arrogant and egocentric character at the beginning of the movie.

By the end of the movie, however, Ego has become a more compatible and modest character. This is particularly emphasized by the change in viewpoint he has for the phrase he criticized earlier. In his new review of Gusteau’s restaurant, Ego mentions how although he used to condemn the late chef’s motto, only now does he understand its intended meaning. “I realize only now do I truly understand what he meant,” he says. “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins that those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France.”

By showing how Ego has learned to admit his mistakes, respect other people’s opinions, and consequently change his perception toward Gatseau’s motto and cooking in general, this touching wordplay successfully reflects maturing and development in the character, as well as gives a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction. The movie started off with defining a phrase; ending with a redefinition of it brings about a sense completion. Although many viewers¬–especially because they tend to be younger–fail to notice or understand these deeper themes while watching the movie, perhaps re-watching this childhood film years later will allow them to understand this implicated theme and view the movie in a new light.

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