I’m a firm believer in that you can make a good movie out of almost any concept, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. A blue talking rat who’s also an amazing cook? Who could ever make that work? However, in 2007, a talented animation studio proved any and all naysayers wrong, producing a feature film that won almost universal acclaim, and deservedly so.
I’m talking, of course, about Ratatoing.
Almost deceptively simple, yet achieving a level of comedic gravitas usually reserved for the likes of the Coen brothers, the story of Ratatoing focuses on Chef Marcell Toing. the owner of the greatest restaurant in all of Rio de Janeiro. Marcell is a master of his craft, able to create countless meals of a great variety all with the simple act of endlessly stirring a single spoon around a single pot. To effectively demonstrate his skill, the first several minutes of the movie focus on various customers gushing about how great the food is, and I suspect that, in at least some sense, this was Video Brinquedo reflecting on their own success, as the words of praise coming from the many rodents are incredibly similar to those from film critics regarding the acclaimed Little Cars series.
Of course, with great success comes great competition, and amid all of Ratatoing’s rousing “this food tastes so good” talk comes the undercurrent of jealousy from some of the supposed guests. Many of them ask the staff what the secret to Marcell’s recipes is, and ever the shrewd businessman, he refuses to tell. The revelation, however, is far more action-packed than one might expect, as once a week Marcell and his friends journey into a human kitchen to fetch their ingredients, while his competitors are stuck rooting through the garbage for their menu. This includes a number of rats from an opposing restaurant, who will stop at nothing to get what they want, even if it means taking dastardly action.
The film is most fascinating when it comes to its stirring social commentary on what, exactly, is theft? Our heroes steal from the humans every night, yet that does not make them thieves. Rather it’s the theft of ideas that is vilified in Ratatoing, as the bad guys, once they learn the brilliance of Marcell’s actions. strive to rob him of that. It is probably not accidental, of course, that the movie contains such themes, as Video Brinquedo infamously dealt with Disney, DreamWorks and even Pixar “borrowing” their ideas all the time for their own films. Unsurprisingly, Pixar rushed a Ratatoing rip-off into theaters that summer, just to steal Video Brinquedo’s thunder.
Ratatoing, in addition to its thrilling adventure and witty, Wes Anderson-style comedy, also has a perfect ending: the snooty critic finally tastes some of Marcell’s food and the competition rats are thrown into a lab for testing as punishment for simply wanting what Marcell had. It’s so beautiful that I get a little teary just talking about it.
Have a “precisely” good day, everyone!
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