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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Ratatouille the Movie or Roll over Walt Disney

I finally saw Ratatouille and I must say I was completely unimpressed. There is something unsettling about a “cute” rat that #1 has a palate, #2 is coached by a fat chef ghost, #3 pulls the hair of a cook want a be to make him lurch through the kitchen to create perfect dishes and #4 a legion of rats divided throughout the kitchen to prepare a perfect meal for an obnoxious critic. Does this make sense?

Now in older Disney animal movies there was always a depressing sense of reality with an animal dying, evil parent, or nasty protagonist. There was something to make a child bawl and give them nightmares. In this movie the rat was separated from his clan and found himself in Paris. It was hardly heart wrenching since just a few seconds later he found himself in front of a three star restaurant. In this candy coated version of a professional French kitchen there is a runt of a chef who intimidates by rolling his eyes and screwing up his face. He devises a way to expose the chef wanabe by recreating the soup his rat friend had created. Now if Chef Jr. was worth his chops he would have been quizzing his rat friend and learning how to cook instead of letting his hair get pulled under his toque. Where are the knife throwing, food rage and culinary perversion that can be found in a dysfunctional kitchen? And what about the rest of the kitchen staff? Yes they all look like convicts and I’m sure they are tattooed as well but the only one with a personality is the female cook who would never make the cut in any traditional French restaurant. The rest are there for close-ups.

There is no feel for the grueling daily grind of cleaning cases of lettuce, butchering meat, or the magic of emulsifying a sauce. Even the ghost is 2 dimensional (excuse the pun) sagely pushing rat and son to perfection.

I know that the food is excellently choreographed thanks to Thomas Keller graciously letting the production team into his kitchen and allowing them to pixilate his movements. But so what?

Finally the reason that the reviewer is sent into a taste bud orgasm is because the rat has recreated ratatouille that reminds him of his childhood? And that makes a great restaurant?

The real kicker is that the bumbling Chef Jr., who shouldn’t even be cooking at a fast food restaurant gives a toque to the rat and names him “little chef”. Just to wrap up this already basic and uncluttered tale (tail…) Cheffie has found the love of his life in the militant little vixen female chef.

Disney must be rolling over in his grave.


Deborah Dowd said...

I have to admit the idea of a rat in my kitchen, not matter how culinarily precocious, is not an appealing concept to me... but my kids loved it!

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