Another preview of our new publication The Gospel According To Pixar. The following represents a portion of the addendum to the talk on Ratatouille (2007) entitled “Passion, Purpose and Pest-Control.” Major spoilers ahead.
Brad Bird’s Ratatouille is the story a rat named Remy who dreams of being a cook. And he gets that chance via the hapless Linguini, a down-on-his-luck janitor at the famous Parisian restaurant Gusteau. Through a convoluted series of events, Remy ends up directing Linguini’s movements from under his toque, earning him a position as top chef at Gusteau’s. Remy’s cooking attracts the attention of the film’s chief antagonist, the supremely cantankerous food critic Anton Ego, voiced by Peter O’Toole. From a Mockingbird perspective, very few characters in the history of film have represented the Law as purely as Anton Ego, so if you want to know what we mean when we throw around that term, look no further.
Ouch! Fortunately in this case (and others), the Law is not the final word. In fact, Ego, and his negativity, is undone in what has to be one the most wonderful scenes in Pixar history. It takes place at the end of the film, when Ego has returned to Gusteau’s to review the food, officially, and he has been kept waiting.
Eating the ratatouille, Ego has a conversion experience. The taste of the dish transports him back to childhood and reminds him of being taken care of by his mother. The food, in this sense, makes him feel loved. He abreacts – in a moment he is undone, his defenses penetrated – he is born again. We catch a glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said, we must become like children (Matt. 18:3). It is a profound moment.
Ego’s closing speech is that of a converted man, the expression of a veil being pulled back. The overflow of a grateful heart taking the form of uncontrived praise and, well, evangelism. It is also a beautiful articulation of what we call “The Nazareth Principle”: Good things coming from unexpected places, the ultimate of example of which being the carpenter from Nazareth. Not only is the cook unexpected, the ratatouille itself is an odd choice for a restaurant that serves haute cuisine. Similarly, the Christian Gospel is counter-intuitive. More often than not, it hits us sideways, in our blind spot. The vulnerable and needy place. We don’t expect it, so our walls are down. Thank God.
1 Cor 1:27 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”