Ratatouille (2007)

Rated: G
Grade: BBBB=B
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $206 million US, $406 million abroad, $79 million DVD

Directed by: Pixar, Brad Bird, who previously made The Incredibles and Iron Giant and Jake Pinkava, who previously did animation for Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, and Monsters Inc.

Starring: The voices of Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O’Toole, Brad Garrett, Jeneane Garofalo, Will Arnett, and John Ratzenberger.

Remy has a problem. He loves fine food and has the palate and nose of a master chef. Unfortunately, he’s a rat. But when a sudden catastrophe forces him from a country cottage into the big city of Paris, he gets the opportunity of a life-time at the declining restaurant of his cooking hero Gusteau. Meanwhile, Gusteau’s secret son, Linguini has just been hired to clean in the restaurant by the dwarfish and malicious manager. Perhaps the two can work out an arrangement that will benefit them both.

Entertainment Value: B
Pixar doesn’t make bad movies, except for the Incredibles. They only make movies in degrees of good. This is another decent movie from them with an intriguing plot, fascinating characters, good voice work, great animation, and even some worthy themes.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sexuality A, Violence C, Language A, Illegality A
There is constant wine consumption, and Linguini behaves drunkenly at one point. There are several hair-raising chase scenes involving (usually) violence directed at rats such as throwing knives at them or shooting at them repeatedly with a shotgun. As far as language goes, unless something so bland as “rat-patootie” bothers you, you’ll find this movie to be, wait for it, squeaky. All that being said, however, there was one scene in particular that really bothered me. When Remy is running through the buildings, he passes a scene where a couple are having a vicious lover’s quarrel and she points a gun at him as if to shoot him before he can grab the gun and kiss her. It’s brevity doesn’t undermine it’s intensity, and it was totally out of place in a G movie.

Significant Content: B
Anyone can cook. It’s Gusteau’s phrase, and it represents a kind of culinary egalitarianism which is thoroughly incongruent with French society and especially the critic’s world of star ratings. But the real meaning, as we learn, is to not judge ability by a person’s background or appearance. If only people weren’t so anti-rodentic, we would realize that rats can be our best friends and great chefs to boot. There’s a pretty substantial commentary on the lack of substance in critics compared to those who really create. There’s a strong criticism of frozen/prepared foods compared to freshly made along with a sub-theme that enjoying life and food is good. Stealing is repeatedly discussed and condemned. And, ultimately, the movie is about loyalty and trust and not taking credit for things someone else has done.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
No one does computer generated animation better than Pixar. In this case, though many of the plot elements are, of course, impossible, it’s still quite good work. What I liked most about this movie, as with many Pixar movies, is that it gives you a rich, well-told story to discuss with the kids and the values issues raised by it.

Discussion Questions:
~Colette says that she has had to work extra hard to prove herself in the kitchen as a woman, but it is her nurturing tendency which leads her to help Linguini. Are women doing something unfeminine when they compete with men? Are they being more womanly when they help others?
~Which is more pleasing to God: those who create things such as food, or those who evaluate those things like critics? How do critics keep artists honest? Is it very Christian to be a critic of food or movies? Is Ego right that critics take too much joy in destroying what others have created?
~Why might someone think that frozen/prepared foods are bad compared to fresh cooking? Are those who love to cook and eat good food enjoying something extra in life that others are really missing? What brings you more pleasure, making things for others or having good things made for you to enjoy? How does this relate to Jesus’s teaching that it is more blessed to give than to receive?
~This movie talks a lot about stealing, both tangible goods and credit. Why is it important not to take credit for things we haven’t done ourselves? Why is it important to earn what we get rather than to take it?
~Do you think this is a realistic portrayal of rats? Why might it be a bad idea to glamorize such dirty creatures? Why might it be okay? What do you think about treating animals like people?
~Remy’s dad wanted him to be the poison detector for the rat colony, but Remy obviously had bigger plans. What do you think about Remy doing what his father didn’t want him to do?
~Is it stealing to Take someone else's garbage?
~Is the ability to produce art and appreciate beauty, such as in food, a key difference between humans and animals?
~How is this story also a historical story of the careers of Walt Disney, Disney Animation after Walt, and Pixar?
Overall Grade: B
Solid, worth watching, except for that one scene. And the expected Pixar short on the DVD about aliens was hilarious, as usual. I’m very excited to see them producing a DVD of all their short films soon.

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