Sure, there have been lots of stories written and films made about characters dreaming the impossible dream—longing to do something with their lives beyond their “directive,” (to quote our last fascinating character’s film) but the magic of the third most fascinating animated character on my list is that he is following his directive; he is using what he has (amazing sense of smell and taste) to its full potential. Oh, and also that he is a rat who loves to cook.
NUMBER 3: Remy
As with many Pixar films, the pitch for this film must have raised some eyebrows. “Ok, so it’s about a rat who is going to cook human food in a fine dining restaurant…in France!” There are just so many potential problems: How is a rat going to cook in a human kitchen? How are we going to animate food? Can the longing to cook be conveyed to all audiences, including children? Are people going to be grossed out watching a rat cook and serving the food to humans? Or are they going to get so hungry watching the film that they will leave the theater in search of the nearest French eatery?
Jan Pinkava’s original screenplay for Ratatouille is bold and sweet, Brad Bird’s direction; c’est magnifique! Remy is so likable and intriguing right off the bat, with Patton Oswalt giving a perfectly paired performance to the rat’s cartoony features and realistic movements. Oswalt’s got great timing in his comedic and dramatic delivery, so the juxtaposition of Remy’s big eyes, pink hands and blue fur to the hyper-realistic world he inhabits goes down smooth as a fine, red wine paired with a cheeseburger. Yum!
Remy is not just a foodie, he wants to create. He is inspired by Chef Gusteau, whom he sees on TV and from whose cookbook he has studied. After fleeing his home with the rest of his family, Remy gets separated and nearly starves to death in the sewers below Paris, France. He is then visited by the ghost (or figment of his imagination) of Gusteau, who pushes Remy to continue following his heart with the tagline, “Anyone can cook.”
Famous TV chef Anthony Bourdain has called this his favorite food-centric film, saying, “They got the food, the reactions to food, and tiny details to food really right – 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.” That is all true enough, but the icing on this cake, the chateaubriand of this tenderloin? Remy, of course! He is the heart of this film and his passion continues to inspire me in my own life no matter how many times I’ve enjoyed this delectable treat of a film.