Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
At first blush, a film about a rat with culinary dreams sounds as heartwarming as one about lice yearning to open a salon. But, to paraphrase one lesson of 2007’s Ratatouille, great art comes from anywhere.
Ratatouille kicked off a three-year renaissance of atypically avant-garde animation for Pixar. Its gourmand rodent certainly was a hard-sell follow-up to 2006’s Cars — a pedestrian film with tie-ins forever mummified on clearance-rack shelves.
Ratatouille’s frothy, family-friendly farce boasts dazzling detail from rat-fur tufts to tile-grout crumbs, a snappy Michael Giacchino score and an intoxicating dusky visual aesthetic. But realistic rats scurrying through a kitchen was only the stuff of appealing artistry, not appetizing ancillaries. As is director / co-writer Brad Bird’s way, though, Ratatouille improvises a delectable dish from odd ingredients.
Yearning for cuisine beyond trash, Remy wants to cook a la his late idol Chef Gusteau. Accidentally separated from his family, Remy turns up in the kitchen of Gusteau’s downtrodden Paris restaurant — rebuffed by critic Anton Ego and reduced in stature by Gusteau’s sous chef, Skinner. Teaming with gangly new hire Linguini, Remy recaptures Gusteau’s gustatory gusto.
In a G-rated spin on his foulmouthed foodie stand-up bits, Patton Oswalt delights as Remy, and a humbled climactic soliloquy of Peter O’Toole’s Ego remains the greatest passage scripted for any Pixar film yet.
As classically as Babe, Ratatouille turns animal-kingdom expectations on their ear for a unique, generous and gleeful gastronomic masterpiece that knows it’s not much fun to look out, or cook, only for yourself.