New In Theaters – “Ratatouille”
In deference to victims of the Bubonic Plague (1347-1351), I was prepared not to like this animated tale of a culinary rat who becomes the Paul Prudhomme of his species But, like the movie’s restaurant critic, I couldn’t help myself.
“Ratatouille” is a savory concoction of follow-your-dreams, loyalty, romance and family, spiced with droll dialogue and slapstick humor. It’s Mickey Mouse meets The French Chef, with Charlie Chaplin thrown into the mix.
The hero, rat Remy, is an endearing combination of shyness and pluck. The acolyte of cordon-bleu cooking washes up (literally) in Paris and – inspired by the shade of his hero, Chef Gusteau – invades the master’s former-five-star eatery.
By saving a soup from disaster, Remy (whose sense of smell is so acute that he can actually visualize aromas) accidentally becomes a gastronomic sensation.
The obstacle of a rat in the kitchen (mon dieu! Call le exterminator, touts suite!) is overcome when Chef Boyar Rodent forms a secret alliance with a hapless human, a scullery lad named Linguini.
Hidden under Linguini’s chef’s hat, Remy directs his bumbling efforts – making his limbs move by pulling his hair. The result is (voila!) mouthwatering masterpieces, due to the combined efforts of a boy who can’t cook and a rat who can’t be seen around food.
The movie abounds with lovable and loath-able characters – good-naturedly inept Linguini, imperious Skinner (Napoleon of the kitchen), tough, no-nonsense Colette (whose heart Linguini melts like butter in a saucepan), Remy’s rotund brother rat Emile (whose motto is, “if you can overcome the gag reflex, swallow it”) and, of course, the cadaverous critic Anton Ego (voice of Peter O’Toole). When Linguini asks Attila The Restaurant Reviewer what he’d like for dinner and Ego replies in a rumbling voice “Your heart, roasted on a spit,” you can believe it.
“Ratatouille” is Pixar magic. Children will love the adventure and humor (like when the rodents tie up a health inspector and toss him in a meat locker – serves him right, the nosey bureaucrat).
Adults will savor the subtler delights of a rat creating haute cuisine, and an intimidating critic taken back to his provincial childhood by the scent of a savory dish artistically prepared (ratatouille – what else?).
In a summer of films moviegoers could gag on, “Ratatouille” is satisfying in every way. I left the theater craving more than popcorn. Ratty gets an A-.
New on DVD – “The Last Mimzy”
“The Last Mimzy” takes us to a place of – to paraphrase “The Age of Aquarius” – “mystic crystal revelation and the mind’s annihilation.”
Two adorable, precocious kids, Noah and his sister Emma, find a box on the beach with objects they call toys. Various of the “toys” spin in space, create energy fields, and impart psychic powers.
One is a stuffed rabbit which emits electronic purring sounds. Emma calls it “Mimzy” and says it teaches her. What’s up, Doc?
Well, before you can say “Shirley MacLaine,” the children are levitating (Emma scares her parents by floating a few feet above the floor), teleporting objects, communicating with their minds, directing the efforts of spiders, and causing a power outage in Seattle that mobilizes the Department of Homeland Security.
The New Agey tale is splotchy as a tie-dyed shirt. “Mimzy” is a form of artificial intelligence sent from a future where our DNA is in the dumps (presumably due to Exxon) and the earth is dying because we failed to heed Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
The mission of A.I. Bunny is to find a pure soul who can provide that intangible something to save the planet. The purpose of the other objects/toys is to help the children develop their psychic powers and eventually send bionic Bugs back to the future.
The adults are all well-meaning (even Michael Clarke Duncan, the gravelly-voiced local honcho of Homeland Security) if more than slightly confused.
The characters who come closest to hitting on the truth are a hippy-wanna-be science teacher (played by Rainn Wilson) – who sits cross-legged on his desk while lecturing his class on how pollution is screwing up our genetic code – and his meditating, palm-reading fiancé.
Having visited Tibet with his honey, Timothy Leary Jr. has achieved the proverbially higher state of consciousness. When he discovers that Noah is drawing detailed replicas of ancient mandalas (geometric patterns related to Buddhism), Wilson and his girlfriend engage in some spiritual sleuthing. After reading little Emma’s palm, the girlfriend pronounces the child special and destined to do big stuff.
In the end, it turns out that Emma’s DNA (delivered in a tear drop that falls on Mimzy before Bunny makes the return trip) saves the future and leads to a groovy new world where we are all one with nature and can communicate telepathically and fly.
Lord knows we all need a little magic. Fantasy is fine. But do we want young moviegoers to believe that all of the world’s problems will be solved if we just get down with ESP?
“Mimzy” is ditzy. The plot is confusing and the action drags. In this “Mimzy,” the slithy toves don’t gyre and gimble in the wabe. Beware the B-movie, my son. O Frabjous day, callooh, callay! Bugs get a C-.