Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ratatouille: A perfect recipe for a cartoon that leaves you smiling

A twist of the unexpected, a table – spoon of humor, a cup of graphic magic, and a pinch of moral meaning and we have the recipe for an almost perfect cartoon that will satisfy both adults and children.

A twist of the unexpected: Ratatouille is based on a surprisingly clever idea, on a surrealistic paradox that most good fairytales content. A rat, one of the most dirty and disgusting creatures in our conception, has a passion for good food and fine cuisine. A rat is creature that most adults with very strong pre- conceptions have a natural objection of ever meeting anywhere near food or even worse in a restaurant’s kitchen. Still this rat Remy washes his upper foot and refuses to walk on four because he doest want to contaminate his food with the dirt and the smell of the things he steps on. Moreover he refuses to eat just to eat. He savors every good taste and gets excited by the right combination of taste and smell. He is presented as an artist, someone that would endanger his life and abandon his family in order to be able to do his art and be praised for it.

A table-spoon of humor: The jokes in this cartoon can satisfy both children and the more rigid adults. Remy’s first visit in the kitchen where he nearly escapes from exposure or death a thousand times reminds us a scene of an old good Charlie Chaplin slapstick comedy. The laugh derives from the body movement, the exquisite timing of an orchestrated sequence that resembles a perfectly executed dancing or even an acrobatic number. In other scenes the humour is much more subtle and intellectual catching the attention of the adult audience. Catchy lines offer wit. The rats are considered thieves so in Remy’s dialogue with his father a joke is played on our way of thinking.

Remy: We're thieves, and what we're stealing is, let's be honest, garbage.
Django: It's not stealing if no one wants it.
Remy: If no one want's it, then why are we stealing it?

Some of the character’s lines convey hints on our preconceptions on French culture (Colette: I hate to be rude, but, we're French!), high cuisine and even contemporary politics creating the opportunity to appreciate the under run irony of the cartoon.

A cup of graphic magic: Pixar has done an amazing work on the computer graphic animation. It has managed to resolve on of the biggest defaults of the new technology. While the cartoon remains realistic and exploits the benefits of the new 3d technology flawlessly, it succeeds in remaining romantic and atmospheric. In the past the 3d perfection gave the cartons a feel of plastic and it rendered them a little kich.

A pinch of moral meaning: As a good American cartoon film Ratatouille (allas!) has to have a moral meaning which is obvious in all the film. In case someone misses it Anton Ego (=the evil food critic) sums it up in the end: “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere”. This motto unfortunately reminds me too much of the American ideal of opportunity where everyone no matter how poor, humble and insignificant can become famous, rich and successful. "If you risk enough, work hard enough you are bound to make it" Americans say. Still this is a little bit too clean cut, naive and optimistic. On the other hand this is a kid's movie.

The second theme that runs through the whole picture is very much on discussion these days. Both in England and in America the habits of nourishment especially for kids are being discussed. The ethnic food of Americans, Fast Food, is severely judged and found guilty for many of the health problems of the nation. When Remy says: If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff, he sums all the debate on health and food.

As for myself I would choose to keep this line:

Django: This is the way things are; you can't change nature.
Remy: Change is nature, Dad. The part that we can influence. And it starts when we decide.
Django: [Remy turns to leave] Where are you going?
Remy: With luck, forward.

Or even better perfectly suited for me would be:

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

No comments: