I know people who call themselves "foodies",
which is one of the most annoying words I can think of. Man,
that word pisses me off, especially when people apply it to
themselves. Just say you like food, God dammit. Or better yet,
and less grating, just say you're a pretentious asshole prone
to reverse snobbery. Tell people you can be condescending about
more foods than most. Foodies are the ones who don't wait for
some amazing wasabi ahi that costs fifty bones before they start
jabbering. They'll just as happily prattle on about the nutty
goodness of some 99-cent hamburger, or the smokey textures of
gas station onion rings.
I don't have a problem with people who like
eating. Hell, there are few things sexier than watching a fat
lady stuffing her face with Hostess Gems. I could jerk off while
watching my lovely wife in her panties, pounding down bag after
bag of those delectable edible jewels. Not the toasted coconut
ones, though. Only fucking weirdoes like those.
The thing is, with the self-proclaimed foodies
it's almost never about the food. It's usually about them, showing
off that 1) they can detect nuttiness and smokiness and other
shit like that, and 2) they're cool for slumming it and finding
hidden reasons to eat the shit us regular folks like. Gee, thanks
for letting me know Funyuns have a crisp, light baked texture
and delightfully sweet onion zest; without the foodie seal
of approval, I would have just kept wolfing down Big Grabs of
them behind the 7-11 only because I thought they distracted
me from crying. Now I know they are also acceptable delicious
Foodies are like bookstore philosophers: for
the most part they state the obvious, just with a bigger vocabulary.
Some of us don't have the time, inclination or education to
explain why we like corn dogs; we just do. Some of us don't
spend a lot of time considering that the Bush presidency applies
only a very limited set of Boolean Logic rules to its decision-making.
We just know the guy's a dick. Some people need to read a shitload
of old, wordy books on ethics to understand why it's wrong to
rob a liquor store, and some of us simply know it's wrong because
if you get caught the cops will shoot you in the balls. We've
seen it happen on World's Funniest Police Shootouts.
Some of us have to spend a thousand words justifying a love
for junk food, and some of us don't have to say a word to know
that we eat at Burger King because, somewhere, there are thousands
of lab-coated scientists designing hamburgers and french fries
with a formulation specifically to help the poor and disenfranchised
forget our miseries. At least until the next mealtime.
Maybe my prejudice against food snobs taints
my opinion of Ratatouille, but I suspect I didn't like
it as much as I was supposed to. Whatever it was, the food part
of the movie didn't appeal to me. And, since the whole damn
thing is about a fancy French restaurant, the food part is about
as big and important for holding things together as one of Mrs.
Remy's a rat with a developed sense of taste.
He savors cheeses and breads while his rodent brethren shovel
shit into their mouths for the purpose of survival. He's a bit
of a prick about it, too. He tries to get them to take their
time and cherish the food. It's sort of like begging the Harelip
to stop playing that God damn Badfinger song on the jukebox.
Despite being a rat, Remy dreams of being a
chef, and he's encouraged by the fat ghost of a dead Parisian
named Gusteau, whose restaurant was once the toast of the town
but is fading into irrelevance after his death. Remy, of course,
winds up at Gusteau's, and befriends a clumsy garbage boy named
Linguini (yeah, that's a bit too cute) with no culinary skills
whatsoever. Despite his talent, the rat can't be a chef without
the health department busting a hemorrhoid. So, the boy and
the rat make a deal. The boy will let the rat live, and secretly
do the cooking, and Linguini will get the accolades and keep
his job in the kitchen.
Of course, all sorts of complications ensue.
The head chef is paranoid and sleazy and smells a rat. Linguini
is the bastard son and rightful heir to Gusteau's, but only
the sleazy chef knows this, and he tries to hide this information
from the boy. Linguini falls in love with a female chef, a badass
toughie with a motorcycle.
In the end, though, anyone who matters recognizes
that Remy is a great chef, which I guess is the point of the
Ratatouille looks prettier than a pastel
field of daisies, with a fat chick eating tiny donuts in it.
I mean, Paris looks so damn nice that I nearly thought I wanted
to visit. Director Brad Bird really likes cool cars because
he put a load of T-Birds and Galaxies in The Incredibles
and loads this one up with some nice Citroens. There is incongruity,
though, that I couldn't get over in how detailed and photo-realistic
the city is and how cartoonish the characters are. The characters
aren't dazzling or interesting to look at; just sort of standard
cartoon-looking things in 3-D.
For all the movie's talk about food, very little
of it in the movie looks delicious. Maybe if I ate at superfancy
restaurants all the time, I'd understand. Since I don't, though,
the meals, sauces and ingredients appeared bland and uninteresting.
I think of Big Night and how tasty its huge, meaty meals
looked, and how I wanted to go eat a bunch of Italian sausage
afterward. Ratatouille didn't have the same effect, although
I suspect some food snob will correct me and tell me I'm stupid.
I can't wait.
What left me coldest, though, was how mechanical
the movie's plot points and some of the gags were. Previous
Brad Bird movies didn't conform so easily to Hollywood formula,
but Ratatouille frequently feels like it's being propelled
by a blueprint that doesn't mesh with the characters. Why exactly
does Linguini need to keep the job at the restaurant if he doesn't
really show any real interest in food and is bad at cooking?
Paris is a big city and there are other jobs out there. A scene
where Remy is nipping at Linguini inside his clothes is pretty
damn similar to a Harold Lloyd bit in The Freshman. The
whole secret will plot is corny and ultimately means little
to the story. It's just a cheap device for adding fake conflict.
Similarly, the villains are villainous without redemption. In
The Incredibles, Bird did a hell of a job humanizing
Mr. Incredible's antagonist. Here, though, I can't figure out
why I should give a shit about the villains, or believe they
are more than just plot devices. And the climax, in which the
nasty food critic loves the dish Remy prepared for him is the
result of luck, not skill, and so doesn't do any convincing
that the food really is better than it looks. It also feels
tacked on more than organic.
Let the foodies enjoy Ratatouille. I
just spent 1200 words saying why I didn't, so maybe they can
spend 5,000 on the hint of oak and the taste of berries that
I missed. Two Fingers.