By Daniel Howat
Every year, as Thanksgiving approaches, we’re reminded of the severe lack of movies available to celebrate the holiday. We’ve got hundreds of movies for Christmas, and even movies for Halloween and Easter. There are a few options, like “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” or “Hannah And Her Sisters,” but we’re in need of some new Thanksgiving traditions. I come before you today to humbly submit a new film for your Thanksgiving movie rotation: Pixar’s 2007 Oscar Winning Film, “Ratatouille.”
There’s no direct connection to Thanksgiving in “Ratatouille,” I grant you that. It takes place in France, so the movie isn’t particularly American. There’s nothing that really feels like it’s a fall or winter movie. Still, I believe, despite all of that, “Ratatouille” makes for a great compliment to a Thanksgiving gathering with the family.
First and foremost, (And this might be the most obvious) it’s a family movie. This isn’t a movie that will cause any arguments or disagreements. There’s nothing edgy or political. There’s nothing to really push anyone’s buttons. Just like all Pixar movies, it’s great for the whole family to gather and watch together. It’s fun, it’s engaging, and the animation is stunning.
The most obvious element that makes “Ratatouille” work as a Thanksgiving viewing experience is the cooking itself. The beautiful cooking montages throughout the film are highly inspiring. As Remy guides Linguini and teaches him how to become a successful chef, it makes the audience feel as though they can do it too. Even the most amateur of cooks may feel a spark of inspiration as they watch Linguini and the other cooks work their magic. This is one of the best ways to get ready for that big Thanksgiving meal you will be sharing with your family and friends.
In the film, legendary chef Gusteau has a very important motto: “Anyone can cook.” It’s his mantra for his cooking show and the title of his cookbook (Which Remy uses as his Bible so to speak). This idea is a major theme throughout the movie. Of course, that theme in the film can be taken more broadly: you can do anything you set your mind to. Still, the specific idea that anyone can cook works magic here. As you and your family set out to prepare the meal for Thanksgiving, use “Ratatouille” as a rallying point. Gather the family to watch it the night before Thanksgiving or even as you’re starting to cook, and you may get more family members volunteering to do their share in the kitchen.
“Ratatouille” might help with picky eaters as well. I must insert a disclaimer here: I’m one of the pickiest eaters you’ll come across, and the food looks flat-out delicious in this movie, even to me! I dare you to watch this movie on an empty stomach. It can’t be done! Your mouth will water at the stunning meals presented. Gorgeous animations express the feeling of fantastic food combinations and make you want to try them. As Gusteau says, “Good food is like music you can taste, colors you can smell.” Even food that I would never eat in real life looks incredibly tasty, including sweetbreads (Gross!). This film almost makes me want to branch out with my tastes and try new things, a perfect attitude when approaching Thanksgiving. Watch this with your picky eaters and you may find less resistance with some less traditional recipes on Turkey Day.
Bigger than the food elements, though, are the themes of familial acceptance. Thanksgiving can be a tough time for a lot of families. For many, there’s a sense of dread around the holidays. The gathering together of many points of view and life choices can cause a lot of tension. Once the meal is set and everyone is seated around the table with no phones to hide behind, people can clash. That’s why “Ratatouille” works so well as a Thanksgiving movie. Remy clashes with his family. His dad, Django, doesn’t understand him. “You could say we have different points of view.” While his dad leads the rats in the eating of garbage, Remy holds his tastes to a higher standard. Even his brother, who he gets along with, has a hard time understanding Remy’s passion for food. But by the end of the film, as Remy learns that he can’t neglect his family for his passions, his dad learns to respect Remy’s choices.
“This really means that much to you?” Django asks. Remy tells him “I don’t want you to think I’m choosing this over family. I can’t choose between two halves of myself.”
It’s a touching moment. Family acceptance is a big deal, no matter who you are or what your relationship with your family looks like. And not only does Django accept Remy’s choice to risk his life for his passions, he decides to help him. He rallies the rats to pull off a fantastic dinner. He risks embarrassment and even death to support his son. And Remy realizes that success is nothing without family and the support they provide. They need each other.
As your family gathers this holiday season, consider “Ratatouille” as your Thanksgiving movie of choice. The film will entertain, the food will inspire excitement for the big meal, and the themes just might bring your family together if you let it. It might be an unconventional choice, but for me, “Ratatouille” will remain at the top of my Thanksgiving watchlist.
Be sure to hold your family dear. Be safe. Have a great time. And from the NBP team, we wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!
You can follow Daniel and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @howatdk