Posts Tagged ‘RATATOUILLE’

Metro In Focus: Foodie movies: From Ratatouille to Chef

chefBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

Chefs are the Food Network’s stock in trade. From Bobby Flay to Giada De Laurentiis, and Iron Chef to Top Chef, the delicious channel has created a cult of celebrity around the people who make our food.

A new film, Chef, takes a celebrity, actor Jon Favreau, and casts him as a restaurateur who has lost his way and desperately wants to reclaim his cooking cred.

In the film, he plays Carl Casper, a Los Angeles chef who hightails it to his Miami hometown when his fancy restaurant gets a scathing review from an online food critic (Oliver Platt). There he buys El Jefe Cubanos, a food truck he plans on driving across the country with his son (Emjay Anthony).

High on food porn — there’s even a shrimp scampi seduction scene — and Cuban sandwich recipes, Chef is a movie that may whet audience appetites for other movies about the people that make our food.

In The Big Night, Stanley Tucci plays Secondo, owner of an Italian restaurant called Paradise. The place is slowly going broke but may get a boost from a visit by singer Louis Prima. If Prima shows up, the restaurant will have a big night and be saved from bankruptcy.

It’s not only one of the greatest food movies ever made (you’ll want to go for risotto afterward) but it also features what Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers called “an unforgettable acting duet” between Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, who plays his temperamental chef brother, “that is as richly authentic as the food.”

Ratatouille takes a different approach. An unusual cross between America’s Next Top Chef and Willard, the Pixar movie does something no other film has been able to (not that a lot have tried): It makes rats cute. Lovable, even.

The story of a cooking rat is chef and TV presenter Anthony Bourdain’s favourite food film. “They got the food, the reactions to food, and tiny details to food really right,” said The Taste host, “down to the barely noticeable pink burns on one of the character’s forearms. I really thought it captured a passionate love of food in a way that very few other films have.”

Real chefs are featured in the documentary Spinning Plates. Weaving together three stories from a trio of very different restaurateurs, the film shows the personal and professional side of the food biz as well as the connection to the community that’s so important for success.

It cuts through the Food Network’s simplistic food-family-and-feelings approach with a tagline that sums up its philosophy: “It’s not what you cook. It’s why.”

THE NUT JOB: 1 STAR. “very little joy, almond or otherwise, in “The Nut Job.”

The-Nut-Job“The Nut Job” is chock full of the standard animated fare. There’s cute furry animals, a not-so-scary-villain, some slapstick and messages for kids about sharing and teamwork.

Unfortunately there’s also a noisy, nutty story that left me feeling like an assaulted peanut.

Think that was a bad peanut pun? Wait till you see this movie. Or not.

“The Nut Job” begins on a downer note. The animals of Liberty Park don’t have enough food for the winter and the selfish actions of Surly Squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett) has pretty much guaranteed they’ll starve once the weather turns cold.

Raccoon (Liam Neeson), the park patriarch banishes Surly but soon the mischievous rodent involves the park’s citizens—wannabe hero Greyson (Brendan Fraser) and sexy squirrel Andie (Katherine Heigl)—in a dangerous scheme that will either save them or kill them—robbing a nut store owned by some Damon Runyonesque mobsters.

“The Nut Job” is an original story that feels Frankensteined together from other, better kid’s movies. Echoes of “Ice Age” style slapstick and “Ratatouille” situations and even “Animal Farm” ethos reverberate throughout. I’ll give the filmmakers credit for adding in the gangster twist and some jazzy music but it’s the characters themselves that really disappoint.

To give you an idea of the amount of thought put into the characters, let’s start with their names. Neeson’s raccoon character is inventively named Raccoon, the rat sidekick is Buddy (Robert Tinkler) and the surly squirrel is, of course, called Surly.

Different names wouldn’t have made this a better movie, but the literal names display a lack of inventiveness that permeates the entire film. The animation is fine, but the rest—the story, the voice work, the action—feels as uninspired as peanut butter without jam.

There is very little joy, almond or otherwise, in “The Nut Job.”


ratatouille_3Ratatouille could do for rats what March of the Penguins did for tuxedo clad furry birds. An unusual cross between America’s Next Top Chef and Willard, the movie does something no other film has been able to, (not that a lot of have tried), it makes rats cute. Lovable even.

Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is a sophisticated rodent with a highly developed sense of smell. While his rat brothers and sisters are happy to simply survive by scavenging through the garbage, Remy has loftier goals. Using a recipe book called Anyone Can Cook by the famous French television chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett) he teaches himself to read and realizes that he was born to cook saffron scented mushrooms, not eat rotten apple cores from the trash.

His love of food almost gets him and his nest killed when a kitchen raid goes horribly wrong. In the ensuing panic he gets separated from his flock, floating downriver on his beloved cookbook until he ends up in Paris. Stumbling across the restaurant of his idol, the recently departed Gusteau, he puts his refined nose to good use and secretly adds spices and ingredients to rescues a soup that had been ruined by a bumbling employee named Linguini (Lou Romano). The soup is a hit, and Remy partners-up with Linguini to create more dishes. To paraphrase UB40, “there’s a rat in then kitchen and Linguini don’t care.” Intrigue follows when it is discovered that Linguini may be a relative of the late great chef Gusteau.

Ratatouille is the most visually spectacular of all the Pixar (the people behind the Toy Story films, Finding Nemo and Cars) films. Saturated in rich colors the action scenes in the busy kitchen as Remy assists in the making of soups and such while trying to avoid detection are breathtakingly beautiful. Intricately choreographed and exquisitely detailed these kinetic kitchen scenes absolutely sparkle—large copper pots bubble over with delicious looking sauces, vegetables are chopped by expert hands, waiters move to and fro, while a team of chefs labor over hot stoves. It’s a frenzy of action that will make your eyeballs dance.

As usual Pixar pairs the visuals with a solid, funny story populated by interesting characters. Director Brad Bird has given Remy a real personality, giving the ‘lil chef an endearing and funny non-verbal vocabulary of nods and shrugs to communicate with Linguini. When he does speak to the other rats (in English, no one in this French restaurant actually speaks French) he actually has something to say. Bird and his co-writers avoid the trap of so many other animated films that mistake clever pop culture references for dialogue. As a result the movie has the classic, timeless feel of old school Disney family films.

The relationship between rat and man—Remy and Linguini—however unlikely, is nicely realized and offers up a family friendly messages about friendship and cooperation. The characters are aided by nice voice work from Janeane Garofalo as the smart and oh-so-French Colette, Ian Holm’s psychotic chef Skinner, and Peter O’Toole’s as the snotty food critic Anton Ego who is reduced to tears by food that reminds him of his mother’s cooking.

Ratatouille is Pixar working at the top of their game. It’s a delicious feast for the eyes mixed with a timeless, charming story.