Monday, July 02, 2007


The movie Ratatouille is the perfect animated film for the Bay Area, with its widespread love of all things cultured, particularly food. It’s a wonderful, wonderfully intricate, layered movie with the themes “anyone can cook!” and “you can do anything you set your mind to,” and I loved it. I’m just not sure it’s a kid’s movie.

I was able – nay, privileged – to attend a charity event at the Pixar facility in Emeryville. I was very calm as I rode with my friend to the event, and, I must say, proud of myself for not screaming the litany that was brewing inside me, something like, “Drive faster!! We’ll miss out on the hors d’oeuvres!” We arrived about 10 minutes into the start of the event, and walked into the modern, cool-looking facility like we worked there every day. With a glass of white wine in one hand, and a little tomato pastry in another, I roamed around, admiring the cafeteria (“That’s where they eat!”) and the posters and figures acknowledging previous Pixar movies.

We watched Ratatouille in the Pixar theatre, which only held about 300. But before that, we were wanded with metal detectors to prevent anyone from coming in with a camera. Amazingly, there were people who showed up with cell phones, even though they were told not to, and those were held for them until they came out of the little room.

Halfway through the movie, I would judge that most of the kids fell asleep, or were nodding in and out. The action in the first half was enough to keep them awake, but I think the second half lagged as far as action as the movie filled in the plot more and explained developments. As an adult, I appreciated the turns the movie took, but I don’t know if the children did.

Remy the rat (as voiced by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt) yearns to use his nose and delicate palate on something other than the garbage the family collects for their daily meals. He goes to the restaurant that his newly-deceased culinary hero used to run, only to find that people don’t take kindly to rats in a kitchen. He befriends a kid in the kitchen, and once they’ve established that the kid can’t cook but the rat can, figure out a way to combine their talents in order to create something worth eating. In the meantime, we get to see how a French restaurant looks and operates, and, I swear, I could almost smell the stew as it was heating on the stove. Watching this movie definitely made me hungry.

Ratatouille, the rather obscure dish, is only seen toward the end, and plays a rather key role. Sort of like “rosebud” in Citizen Kane.

I enjoyed every bit of this movie, found it rousing and fun. But it won’t be for everyone, I fear. There were people in the audience who couldn’t get over seeing a rat touching their food, regardless of the funny fact that it was an animated rat. And kids may eventually see it as a snore. But those of us who love a good story played out, and who adore food, will love it.

Thumb’s up.


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