Review By JENNIFER GANNETT
A movie about a friendly rat who loves to cook? Sign us up! Buoyed by our love of the Ice Age films (despite my initial skepticism), I cozied up with my son and waited for Disney and Pixar to cast their magic spells on us. It never happened.
“Ratatouille” traces the story of Remy, an epicurean rat, as he journeys from the country to the city. Along the way, Remy befriends young Alfredo Linguine. Remy has long studied a renowned chef named Gusteau through his cookbooks and TV show while bumbling Linguine doesn’t know how to cook, but the two devise an ingenious way to allow Linguine to showcase Remy’s talents: Linguine will work at Gusteau’s restaurant guided by Remy. Events unfold quickly and scenes change quickly and sometimes confusingly. My five year-old didn’t make it past the halfway mark. If it were not for my commitment to bring you this review, I may not have lasted much longer!
This movie contains several bizarre or inappropriate concepts — especially considering it has a G rating. Central to the plot is what may happen to the restaurant under the terms of the deceased Gusteau’s will. There are meetings with attorneys (yawn!), several bits about DNA sampling, a subplot about selling frozen food, casual mentions of foie gras and sweetbread, and a conniving head chef who plies teetotaling Linguine with wine to pry information from him. Remy scampers by a scene of domestic violence in the beginning involving a gun. An older child may be able process these aspects of the plot, but might find the movie boring and “babyish.”
It is worth noting that Remy and his large family face many dangerous situations. Rats evade death by gunshot, drowning, trapping or poison in multiple scenes– some quite dramatic. Remy himself is trapped several times. To hammer home the danger of trusting humans, Remy’s father shows him a line of dead rats hanging in a window.
My viewing experience wasn’t a total wash. Pixar’s animation is marvelous—and the DVD included a film called “Your Friend the Rat,” starring Remy and his brother Emile. This ten minute short is a tongue-in-cheek history of rats and humans done in an entertaining but candid manner. (There are violent snippets illustrating our war against rats and a very short, glossy treatment of rats as lab animals so this may not be for the very young). I had to laugh when Remy reminded me, “The flea caused the plague!”
I recommend this for ages 6 and up.