Picofarad #10 Movie review

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Ratatouille (2007)

Directed by Brad Bird
Running time: 110 minutes

A sort of Kremlinology is growing up around the Pixar movies where the films are not taken as mere exercises in family entertainment, but cryptic messages from the management about how they see the world. In The Incredibles, for instance, the family is said to represent that special minority that's loyal to Apple, which is constantly belittled and oppressed by the bleating masses of Windows users, and the ugly, geeky villain who wants to give superpowers away for free to just anyone is Bill Gates, or maybe Google.

Ratatouille, in this context, is the story of Pixar taking over the Disney animation division. The late, legendary Chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett) represents Walt Disney, while the scheming, merchandising Chef Skinner (Ian Holm) is the later Disney management, especially Michael Eisner. Our hero Remy the rat (Patton Oswalt), who has a gift for cooking, is Pixar bringing true art back to the company. The critic Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole) is, of course, a critic. (To give you an idea of what this movie thinks of critics, it considers being in finance, not exactly an occupation of which many movies approve, to be a step up from being a critic.)

Whether it's a parable, or just a story about a guy separated from his family in a panicked Dunkirk-like evacuation and left with only his dreams and talent to sustain him, it's another solid product in typical Pixar fashion-- cheering, engaging, technically flawless, and utterly predictable. You should not by any means let the last part dissuade you from seeing a very good movie. But the Pixar approach doesn't seem to have a truly great movie in it. It follows the recipe with absolute precision, but it's missing that extra spice, that secret ingredient, that would turn an enjoyable way to while away an afternoon into something truly wonderful.

And would it have killed them to explain what the plot-critical title dish actually is?

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