Monday, July 2, 2007

Ratatouille: Bird gets Rat.

In the latest Disney/Pixar Movie, a rat wants to be the best chef in Paris. The results are hilarious and wonderful. While I’m sure there are plenty of other movie reviews, I wanted to give a few impressions of the movie from the EH view.

I’ve worked a lot of four and five star kitchens in my time and Brad Bird got the feel of a French Kitchen down. Classical kitchens are not usually set up like their American chain or fast-food counterparts, with a line of cold tables dividing the servers from the cooks. Those European kitchens don’t have cold holding. Of course one of the bad habits of such kitchens becomes apparent quickly. Our hero rat Remy in his first cooking attempt in the restaurant finds a carton of cream stored on a shelf above a stove.

As for the kitchen staff, I think I’ve met every one of the people in that kitchen. They are classic people found in probably most kitchens of that caliber, and in many chain stores as well. The subplot of the executive chef more interested in selling frozen food than Haute cuisine strikes true in many kitchens today as well.

Of course there’s the rats. Brad Bird had done an incredible job of switching between real and reel rat behavior. One scene give us a rat’s view of accessing a building as Remy climbs from a sewer to a roof. Another has a Remy scurrying under kitchen equipment. Bird was quoted in several places as insisting since he took over the project that the rats needed to be rats in order to contrast the non-rat behavior.

Yet my biggest impression from the sanitarian view was a theme running through the whole movie. Handwashing and hygiene is important to Remy, how much so leads to an early scene explaining non-rat behavior, and one later which is one of the most hysterical scenes in the movie. What was interesting however was the humans rarely washed their hands, and no one used soap.

Given Brad Bird did a better Fantastic Four movie in terms of atmosphere and story telling in the Incredibles than either Fantastic Four movie, I expected good results. But the detail and storytelling exceeded my expectations. I’d give tails up to this one.