Today, I need to address an issue that has been gnawing at me for years. You’ve probably fallen victim to it and didn’t even know it. Disney, in all its glitz and fanfare and power, has wronged you, my people. Yes, that’s right; you’ve been duped. Allow me to open your eyes and free your mind. You are probably wondering what this horrible instrument of ignorance is that has skewed your thinking.
I have no problem with the rat-as-chef storyline. It’s dumb and a rat could never wash itself enough to make me want to eat at that restaurant, but fine, it’s a cartoon. Some things can be far-fetched. Besides, the actual problems are so much more insidious. None of you have been brainwashed into thinking that rat-prepared entrees will make a good addition to your weekly meal plan.
First things first. And it’s in big letters right across the front.
I don’t understand why a big corporation like Disney can’t hire a native French speaker for a little quality control check. Or me, for that matter. I have a degree and my accent is nearly flawless, you big buffoons! Bah! Ok, so the big joke in the movie is that “Ratatouille” doesn’t sound like something you’d want to eat; it “sounds like a rat’s patootie.” Aside from the fact that every ratatouille I’ve ever had was a pot of mushy, questionable vegetables, it is still infinitely better than a rat’s patootie which, in actuality, bears no resemblance to the proper pronunciation.
Here’s your French lesson (picture me with little glasses and a pointer stick): In French, a syllable begins with a consonant and ends with a vowel sound (yes, there are a few exceptions). In English, syllables begin and often end with a consonant sound. For example, a word that we both share: Condition. In English, we say it con-dish-yun. In French, it is co(hn)-dee-see-o(hn). So right there, you need to stop swallowing that first T in ratatouille. Ra-ta. Enunciate! Next, the abomination that makes my ears scream and plead for mercy — the ending. Disney taught you to say it “rat-a-tooey.” For some inexplicable reason, there are loads of Americans who pronounce that “ouille” ending like that. Which means that somewhere, there are legions of high school French teachers who are teaching it wrong!! It makes me want to rip my hair out, stomp and scream in a glorious show of French righteous indignation. Hear me well, people: I will graciously and quietly correct you the first time you let your tongue commit such an atrocity, but the second time… the second time, I might just have to slap it out of you. Just to be sure, y’know.
So here we go. “Ouille” is pronounced “oo-yeuh.” Ra-ta-too-yeuh. And that last syllable is gentle, subtle, trailing off in the breath. If you want to hear an actual French person say it, listen here. It no longer sounds like “a rat’s patootie.” Ptooey.
Problem #2 is this guy:
This kid is not French. This kid is American. This kid is on the current season of Survivor.
Strike #1: Red hair is rare in France. Red-haired men are extremely rare. I met one, named Samuel, when I was doing my study abroad in Grenoble. He was French; his family was French. And yet, he would get stopped all the time as people commented on his hair and even congratulated him on his good French, the assumption being that, with his red hair, he was surely a foreigner. Right there, Linguini would be such an anomaly that he would get treated like a circus side-show, not ignored.
Strike #2: The shoes. European guys don’t wear Chuck Taylor’s. They actually wear something more akin to wrestling shoes. Here is a sampling of typical European men’s shoes. I didn’t even go out looking for them. I just found the first four on the website for a French shoe and sporting goods store that we used to go to.
I can’t think of a strike #3, so I guess Linguini gets to stay.
Problem #3: While the Eiffel Tower can seem to mysteriously pop up all over the place, there are not wide, sweeping views of it from every angle and corner of Paris. Most movies set in France commit this sin. They don’t want you to forget that it’s set in Paris, so they flog you over the head with images of the Eiffel Tower. Give your audience some credit, already! We aren’t that dense.
Problem #4 occurs in the first act. The rats are enjoying a buffet in an old lady’s kitchen when, all of a sudden, this happens.
Ka-blam! Old lady goes all Rambo on ’em. While gun ownership is not illegal in France, France is not a “gun culture” like the United States are. Historically, guns were for kings, nobility, and the military, and that mentality still persists in a lot of ways. A real French old lady with a temper probably would have resorted to her frying pan as a weapon, not a shotgun.
I know I can’t expect realism in a cartoon, but you’d think, if they’re going to go to the trouble of setting it in France, they could get a few details right. Therein ends my rant. I apologize if I’ve ruined the movie for you, but, whether you ever watch it again or not, at least pronounce it correctly. S’il vous plaît.