Pixar’s Ratatouille (2007) and the Laws of Tradition vs. Change

Warning: Spoilers Ahead • ?? Viewing

“Change is nature.” 

I’m already impressed by Brad Bird’s direction which he has at this point mastered in his career, whether he’s switching from low-ground perspectives to the action occurring at human-level that he served well with in The Incredibles (2004) but rather confined into tighter spaces. However, can we just talk about the sheer amount of social commentary that Ratatouille features? This movie is BRIMMED! 

Remy is the absolute personification of an art w**re, and his own eating procedure pretty much sums that up perfectly: he appreciates a “slow-burn”, the awakening taste of “experimenting”, and really “thinking” about what you’re consuming rather than letting it be numbed to just background noise. He’s living in the motions that any person with a hardcore passion or hobby for something possesses when it has become the primary of themselves and ultimate purpose of their existence. No wonder critics and cinema fanatics connect to this movie so much! 

Brad Bird and writers understand social history when it comes to art as well, and they express this thoroughly with a key idea: the creators of cultural assets that then become popularized through means of other cultures/stealers can, sure, often bring initial satisfaction to the original creators from the joy it successfully brings to the world, yet over the course of time, that false praise inevitably will become tedious to them, and Ratatouille shows how an artist can easily shift-gears to “getting credit” as the on-and-off primary of their goals in defiance of even their focus on true passions.

While this is a bit of a mouthful, I can’t leave out the importance of Ratatouille being interested in how the prejudices of a particular group invents the victims’ own prejudices of the offenders, therefore perpetuating an infectious desire in both to always submit to their traditions rather than exploring others. The movie demonstrates how the glorification of stereotypes can genuinely even convince those who are being victimized of it that they’re true, and how dangerous it is to authenticity or progression. The comfort of tradition and the euphoria of passion confuses us from determining who we truly are, as the two are contradicting but nearly impossible to not coexist. 

Chef Skinner is a pretty great villain, and this mainly comes from what he stands for: a man who abuses art in the name of business. He’s a wannabe restaurant tyrant who surprisingly taints even traditionalism (they sometimes have consistent sincerity to them) in a negative manner by disregarding some of its uplifting wisdom so that he can instead have his commercial reputation which strictly feeds his own needs. I mean, hell! Him literally cultural appropriating under the copyright of Gustav’s dining company and having a greedy addict-like Gollum character design — that had to be on purpose! — is the cherry on top of painting this image. Hmm… Disney seems to love making fun of themselves!

Ratatouille also seems to be wrapped up in the ultra-classic passion vs family thread, yet I actually kind of dig how it was done. Anton Ego, another antagonist who’s hidden almost throughout the entire film until its final act despite his character literally being the one to cause the modern atmosphere of the story, is a food critic who by the end is saved by none other than nostalgia, specifically a callback to a moment of adolescence he had experienced with family. After being so constantly wrapped up in his solo career, a memory of tradition ironically helped lead him to rejuvenate his passion. This traces back to the importance of mingling your obsessions with your collaborations between those you’d consider family, and how the neutrality of them is what can fruitfully define you. Ego’s passion was always food, not necessarily just being a critic, and he found an ultimate happiness by leaving literal “ego” behind in face of incorporating his love for food with a new family that could understand and genuinely add to it in spite of each other’s contrasting cultural backgrounds. 

So all in all, yeah, this is a must-watch to raise your kids on. It’s got tons of messages that can help them transition into the career/adult world as they grow older. I guess Ratatouille really is one of Pixar’s best! 

“I know this sounds insane, but, well, the truth sounds insane sometimes.”

Verdict: A-

My Favorite Animated Movies, Pixar Ranked

“Ratatouille” is now available to stream on Disney+.

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