Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Pixar Project: Ratatouille

Wow! It's been awhile. 

Earlier this summer, my family here at the Fortress of Ineptitude decided to embark on an entertainment adventure by watching the Pixar feature films in chronological order and I would post about it. The last post of The Pixar Project was for the movie Cars and that was back on August 8th. Now, six weeks later and we're back. Not really sure what the delay was; it's not like our social calendar is THAT full. In fact, our social calendar occasionally lifts its head, gives a faint and dejected sigh then goes back to sleep in its lonely little corner. 

Whatever the reason, I'm back to recount my family's viewing of the next Pixar film in sequence, Ratatouille.  



Ratatouille is a compelling story but an oddly structured one. It’s essentially two movies that cross paths in Paris, France. One movie is about a rat named Remy who is different from other rats in that Remy has a very refined sense of smell and taste. It is a refinement that leads Remy to disdain the garbage favored by his fellow rats. Remy doesn’t want to take leftovers, he wants to make food that is to be enjoyed and savored. Remy is particularly inspired by the human chef Gusteau, an avuncular chef who has gained fame with his credo, “Anyone can cook.”  A series of events separates Remy from the rest of his rat clan and deposits him inside Gusteau’s restaurant. Gusteau’s has seen better days since the tragic death of Gusteau himself and it is here that Remy’s movie meets up with the other movie.


The 2nd movie is the story of Alfredo Linguini who gets a job as Gusteau’s garbage boy. But Linguini fancies himself to be a chef and surreptitiously alters the soup. But if anyone can find an exception to Chef Gusteau’s believe that “anyone can cook”, it’s Linguini. The soup is horrible but luckily Remy is there. At first he’s looking to escape the kitchen before getting caught or trampled but he can’t help himself. He scurries about the kitchen, tossing stuff into the soup and suddenly, it becomes Gusteau’s signature dish. Linguini has no idea what he did and is even more flummoxed when he realizes the rat did it. Linguini dubs the rat “Little Chef” and under cover of a chef’s hat, Remy guides Linguini by yanking up tufts of hair, working Linguini like a piece of construction equipment.

It is an effective alliance for Remy and Linguini but it is an artifice built on lies and deceptions and it all comes crashing down through a sequence of unfortunate events. The 1st movie comes back to plague the 2nd movie as Remy’s clan discovers Remy is alive. They also discover the wonderful restaurant packed with really good stuff where Remy’s working. Meanwhile, the head chef at Gusteau’s is trafficking the Gusteau name for a line of microwaveable frozen dinners and sees the hapless Linguini as a threat to his plans, especially when he discovers that Linguini is Gusteau’s son. On top of that. Gusteau’s has come to the attention of the leading food critic in Paris, the sepulchral Anton Ego who was responsible for the bad review that led to the downfall of Gusteau’s and the death of its namesake chef.

The film culminates with a tension filled finale as the various threads of the movie come together and lessons are learned about not judging based on appearances. After all, anyone can cook, even a rat. OK, the movie ends with Gusteau’s being shut down because, hey, rats are working there. But the principals start a new restaurant where Remy is the head (but secret) chef.

The movie is directed by Brad Bird who broke the mold of what we expect from a Pixar movie with The Incredibles and he further shatters our expectations with Ratatouille. The subject matter, the wonders and the artistry of fine French cuisine, does not seem to lend itself easily to an animated film, even if the protagonist is an anthropomorphized rat named Remy. Ratatouille shifts perspectives and tones as needed to move the story forward. Light hearted slapstick comedy exists side by side with more nuanced scenes of subtler comedy and even drama. It is a movie that assumes a certain degree of intelligence from the viewer. But it’s not a ponderous movie, weighed down by conflicting missions. It flows smoothly from scene to scene like moving through the courses of a fine meal.

There are several visual flourishes, not the least of which are spectacular vistas of Paris, especially at night. Meanwhile, character comes through via design with the gangly Linguini, the rotund Gusteau, the fierce Collette and of course the dreary visage of the almost vampire like Anton Ego. And a word about the rats: yep, they get the rougher edges of real life rats smoothed over but still, the rats look and move like real rats. As much as we root for Remy, some of the scenes with rats swarming about are more than bit icky. 

If Ratatouille is complex and nuanced, the short that precedes it is nothing more than pure fall on the floor comedy. Lifted is the wordless story of an inept alien trainee trying to abduct a human. It does not go well.

There is also a bonus feature on the Blu-Ray called Your Friend, the Rat hosted by Remy and his brother about the amazingly complex interrelationship between rats and humans throughout history which is a remarkably positive story of rat/human co-existence. (It is also a story that does not reflect the views of Pixar or the Walt Disney Corporation as provided in an incredibly funny disclaimer at the end.)

Ratatouille is a hard to define film in the Pixar canon but is certainly indicative of the more adventurous storytelling to come and an entertaining movie in its own right.

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And that's that for today's post. Tomorrow, it's back to politics as we head down the stretch towards the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Clinton hopes to make gains against an opponent who has nothing to lose. This is going to be... weird.

Saturday, we take a look at the mind behind this blog in a segment I'm going to call, "What the Hell is Dave-El Thinking?" If I can summon up more than one thought, I might make it a series.

And on Sunday, it's Doctor Who Day here on the blog as I introduce a BRAND NEW fan fiction script featuring the 12th Doctor against the menace of a Cyberman threat that should be... impossible. What is the mystery behind "Cybermania"? We'll begin that journey on Sunday.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another.

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The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of Dave-El Incorporated and I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You Entertainment which is kind of weird since I'm one writing this thing so basically I'm saying the views I'm writing here are not my views but who's views could they be since what I write here is essentially stuff I'm making up out of my own head  unless than means I don't always agree with what's in my own head which sounds very strange, I know, but sometimes I do think things and I'm like, why did I think that and where did that thought come from and I'm really disturbed by that because these thoughts don't seem like my own, like once in a while I will think something like chocolate is not favorite flavor of ice cream and whoa, where did that come from, I've always liked chocolate as my favorite flavor of ice cream but I mean, I'm not really exclusive to chocolate every single time I eat ice cream because I will on occasion eat strawberry or peach or some kind of combo thing like mint chocolate chip or something like that but if I have to choose and pick just one flavor of ice cream as my all time favorite it would be chocolate so why would I have the thought that it's not my favorite when that isn't true unless it is true and the concept that chocolate is my favorite ice cream is just me lying to myself and if that's the case, I wonder what else I might be lying about, maybe I'm NOT glad that my suffering amuses you and if that's the case, this whole blog is built on a foundation of lies, LIES I tell you and if that's the case, I'm not sure if I can go on except I've come to really appreciate having this forum to write in and so if I want to continue having this blog, I have to admit that sometimes I may not agree with what I'm writing including this disclaimer which seems to have gone on a bit further than I intended so maybe I should wrap this up now and remind everyone to have their pets spayed or neutered or maybe have your pets spayed AND neutered because you can't be too careful about that sort of thing and I should probably remind you that no rats, French people nor alien trainees were harmed in the writing of this post but I gotta tell you my fingers are getting a bit tired so I should say that  my fingers were kind of harmed in the writing of this post and that the contents of this post should not be reproduced without the express permission of Major League Baseball and the US Dept. of Agriculture.

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