In my crapulence, I missed out on Ratatouille in theaters, despite the fact that Brad Bird is one of my favorite directors, and Pixar hasn't made a film I haven't liked yet (with the potential exception of "Cars"). In any case, I basically purchased a blu-ray player just so I could watch the film in high-def the first time. That's how certain I was that I would like it.
The film certainly delivered on all fronts. While some of the messages about dealing with prejudice and, separately, about rising above your humble beginnings were a bit lost in the mix, I was dazzled by the film's amazing animation, great voice acting (esp. by fellow nerd Patton Oswalt), and uplifting ending.
So how does it relate with my last post?
Between "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille," I think Brad Bird has really come full circle. Cracked.com once described "The Incredibles" as an "Ayn Rand bedtime story" and I basically tried to prove as much in my last post. But the message of "Ratatouille" seems drastically different. The film chronicles the activities of Remy, a rat who has a keen sense of smell, a complete understanding of English, and a strong desire for delicious food. The problem is that his rat-like appearance poses problems whenever he tries to get into a kitchen for grub that compares favorably to his normal dumpster-diving fare.
One day while pawing through a kitchen for some foodstuffs, Remy encounters the work of master chef Auguste Gusteau, whose cooking skills and populist message ("Anyone Can Cook") resonate deeply with Remy.
Shortly afterwards, through a series of comedic and outlandish circumstances, Remy is marooned in Paris and figures out a mutually beneficial arrangement with a young boy named Alfred Linguini. They work out a system in which Remy pulls on his hair to control his hand movements, using him as a vessel to make divine culinary creations.
There's the standard bad guy and the obligatory love interest, but the heart of the story is Remy's break from his rat family and how he grapples with his role in the world. Does the world have a place for a chef from such humble beginnings? The end of the movie seems to offer an unequivocal and hopeful answer: Yes.
The thematic differences between "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille" are quite stark. Whereas one argues that there are those among us who are inherently superior (and that's a good thing), the other argues that even the lowest of the low can achieve greatness. Whereas one argues that "special-ness" is something that is granted or inherited, the other shows that it must be worked at, in the midst of obstacles that risk even life and limb. Whereas one is a celebration of the superiority of others, the other is a celebration of egalitarianism, and the triumph of an indomitable will.
"Ratatouille" repudiates the message of "The Incredibles" and it does so in a way that only a genius like Brad Bird could. It is sweeping in its simple and profound message. It has characters that grow and change throughout the course of the film's running time. And it is deeply moving.
BONUS VIDEO: For longtime readers, you'll know what this is:
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