Culture

In Defense of Ratatouille

Today my friend Chris Queen — a fellow member with me in the pop culture cult of Disney — unveiled his ranking of the 12 Pixar films from worst to best.

For the most part his choices drew my sympathy and tolerance, except for one: Chris stuck Ratatouille at second-to-last, ranking even the dull Cars and A Bugs Life superior:

Ratatouille begins with two strikes for me. First, the setting in the world of French cuisine — not exactly the most obvious setting for a family movie night. And second, scurrying around an environment you’d want spotless? The main character is a rat.

Yes, that’s right: I have a problem with a rodent as the protagonist in a Disney film. Look, I’ll admit that Mickey and Minnie Mouse are cute, classic Disney characters — and it would be sacrilege to suggest anything otherwise. But I still don’t want to see them running around in a commercial kitchen […]

I suppose Ratatouille isn’t a terrible film, but at the same time, it doesn’t exactly stay with me, either. Perhaps if it had been more memorable, it would rank higher on this list. On second thought: maybe not. Not with that disgusting rodent in the kitchen.

In the words of the film’s antagonist:

Chris claims two grievances that are really just his own idiosyncrasies: he rejects the French cuisine setting and finds the idea of a sewer rat protagonist distasteful.

But what about those of us who love the Food Network’s celebrations of high brow food and who don’t suffer a wave of nausea at the thought of a cute cartoon character making our soup?

If one can suspend disbelief long enough to imagine a talking rat who can cook then surely one can pretend too that he's not carrying the bubonic plague.


I’d counter by ranking Ratatouillenear the top of Pixar’s canon. Remy is an endearing, likable protagonist striving to move up in the world. And he accomplishes his mission through teaming up with the bumbling, busboy-turned-accidental chef Linguini. It’s in the satisfaction of this relationship — two losers rejected by their communities uniting to create great work — that the film rises as one of the decade’s most memorable animated features. But that’s not the only relationship driving the picture. The sequences between Remy and his imaginary fairy godfather August Gusteau also move and entertain in the classic Disney tradition.

Off the top of my head, here’s how I’d rank the 12 (not counting Cars 2 which still awaits on our Netflix for when we’re done plowing through The Sopranos):
11. Cars
10. A Bug’s Life
9. Monster’s Inc.
8. Finding Nemo
7. Toy Story
6. Toy Story 2
5. The Incredibles
4. Ratatouille
3. Toy Story 3
2. Up
1. WALL-E

Yes: my Pixar heresy is the rejection of Finding Nemo, the most overrated of the studio’s offerings. Why don’t I appreciate Nemo? For the same reason I adore Ratatouille: the characters.

Albert Brooks as Marlin and Ellen DeGeneres as Dory cannot carry the film. Their partnership doesn’t move like Woody and Buzz, WALL-E and EVE, Carl and Ellie Fredricksen, and the Incredible family.