Like many Pixar films, Ratatouille is about identity. A rat with a taste for fine food dreams of breaking out of his rat life to cook like the famous French chef Gusteau. After his love for food leads to the rat clan evacuating their home, the rat Remy finds himself in Paris at the restaurant of the famous chef. Meanwhile, the clumsy Linguini flounders as the garbage boy and unwitting heir of Gusteau’s restaurant.
While kids and adults alike will enjoy the beautiful animation and jazzy soundtrack, the plot serves as a parable to explore how we view those we consider more lowly than ourselves. Can a rat make it in a world of snobbery? Can a clutz attain to great things? These aspirational questions drive Remy and Linguini to depend on each other if they are to achieve others purposes. Yet their relationship is distinctly one-sided:
I know this sounds insane. But well, the truth sounds insane sometimes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not. The truth. And the truth is I have no talent at all. But this Rat… he’s the one behind these recipes. He’s the cook. The real cook. Little Chef? He’s been hiding under my toque. He chooses the ingredients, the spices—he’s been controlling my actions. He’s the reason I can cook the food that’s exciting everyone, the reason Ego is outside that door. You’ve been giving me credit for his gift. I know it’s a hard thing to believe, but hey– you believed I could cook, right? Look. This works. It’s crazy, but it works. We can be the greatest restaurant in Paris. And this rat, this brilliant little Chef can lead us there. Whaddya say? You with me?
Linguini is powerless without Remy. Linguini is entirely dependent on Remy to do anything spectacular. And in the same way the follower of Christ depends on God to do anything: God takes over and begins working through the life of the believer. The apostle Paul writes:
13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:13-14)
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:28-29)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26)
For Christians, God controls our actions. He takes over. He’s the one behind these beautiful things like love, joy and goodness. He’s the reason I can do anything good. As Linguini credits Remy for the amazing cooking he produces, so we understand that the good works we do as believers are God working in and through us by the Spirit. Good works are something God does in us; not what we do to get to God. Linguini simply entrusts himself into Remy’s hands.
These beautiful works are enough to win over the harshest critic, Ego, and indeed, turn him into an ally. In the fantastic ending sequence, the toughest critic in the city reviews the Gusteau’s latest chef and provides this delightful critique of criticism itself, in one of the best monologues ever written for screen:
In many ways the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgement. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But, the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things… the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something… and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from an singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking, is a gross understatement– they have rocked me to my core. In the past I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: “Anyone Can Cook”. But I realize only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the
genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest Chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.
In the end, Remy achieves his dreams of cuisine fame and Linguini happily serves as a waiter in the new small business venture in which Ego invests. The Gospel is not about personal success, but it is a story of humble origins to great victory. Jesus, born among humble surrounds of lowly animals, dies a criminal’s death though the governor Pontius Pilate could find no fault in him, and conquers death in a victorious resurrection. This death is on our behalf, and through faith in the promise that this death and resurrection forgives our sin, God begins to reign. In response we too can begin cooking up great things – not for ourselves but for others.