Monday, January 13, 2014

Anyone Can Cook? How the Film "Ratatouille" Undermines Its Own Message



In the charming Pixar film Ratatouille, a rat named Remy is inspired by a famous cook who says that "anyone can cook." In the end, the rat is vindicated, and becomes the chef at a French restaurant. 

The story evokes the American value that with hard work even someone from a lower class can achieve greatness. The theme of the film, "anyone can cook," resonates when even a rat, with sufficient ambition and wiles, can make it big. 

What most people ignore about the film, though, is the complete inability of the other main character, Alfredo, to learn to cook, in spite of having the same ambition, and, indeed, extensive exposure to good cooking practices. 

In the story, Remy secretly uses Alfredo as a puppet to cook (see the picture). In this way Remy's cooking gains acceptance--nobody would give a rat the same chances they'd give a human. But even by the end of the movie, Alfredo is incapable of making a decent meal on his own. 

What's the difference between Alfredo and Remy? It appears to be some kind of in-born talent, which is at odds with the theme of the film. 

Anyone can cook. Except you, Alfredo. You just don't have the right stuff. 

Pictured: A screenshot from the trailer. From Wikipedia.

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3 comments:

Ali Arya said...

"Anyone can cook" is the book's message not the movie's. One can argue that the movie's message is "anyone can achieve his or her true passion". Not that I necessarily agree with either message. And I thought the American Dream was about opportunity not hard work :)

Anonymous said...

Towards the end, Patton Oswalt as Remy actually says the line, "Anyone *can* cook, but not everyone *should* cook", which destroys that phrase as the theme, and made me want to smack him. That and the whole unexplained body-control-via-hair thing were the major downfalls of the movie for me.

Clearly the way it should have gone was some more plausible, cyrano-like cooking guidance from Remy - and then at the climax he couldn't make it, and Alfredo holds it together based on what he learned from Remy, at least until Remy shows up. That's how it should have gone, but Brad Bird has some weird Ayn Randian axe to grind: as in The Incredibles the message is, "just don't get in the way of the inherently superior people." And it led to him ruining the story (Alfredo has nothing to do at the end but play busboy).

Anonymous said...

signed, Daniel