Thankfully I remember all of these movies more than last month. But where to begin…
So, we open on the Titanic sinking. Jack and Rose are standing on the railing as the ship enters its final vertical descent. They look at each other lovingly, with warmth and affection, as you’d expect. Then we cut to the chef who happens to be on the railing with them.
Freeze frame on the chef with a voiceover. “This… is me. You’re probably wondering how I got here. Let’s start at the beginning.”
Cut to the opening logos (title is Popatanic) with dubstep blaring. These are spliced with documentary-style footage of a hectic 1900s Italian eatery. A different chef (a human named Remy, played by the incredible Andy Samberg) is shouting and orchestrating his kitchen like a buzzed Gordon Ramsey. Cooks and waiters briskly go about their work whilst high-class customers wine and dine.
End title sequence. Remy takes a sigh of relief as the last customer leaves for the night. The words ‘1 year ago’ show up on the bottom of the screen. Remy and his crew toast to another successful evening, while the camera pans outside. There we see the chef from the railing (call him Linguini Owens). He’s in a decrepit, musty alleyway alongside a canal. Linguini laments his lot in life while Remy exudes arrogance. At one point Remy even spits his rancid wine out the window, and it flies directly across Linguini’s face (which, of course, Remy doesn’t notice).
The next day, a documentary crew gets a tour of Remy’s eatery: Remy-4-Real. Remy, again, is supremely confident. The crew continually asks him how he got to be so talented; Remy just winks at the camera and says ‘I’m the king of the world’. This isn’t a helpful answer, but he’s so charismatic nobody cares.
We go back to Linguini Owens, the poor guy from the railing, who is walking the streets of Rome with his son Fabrizio. Linguini imparts valuable lessons to Fabrizio, who is content with their simple, all-but-homeless lifestyle. They argue about whether eating from the trash is stealing. Fabrizio says it’s being resourceful, but Linguini says it’s disgusting.
You see, deep down, Linguini wants to be a chef, because he believes that anyone can cook. Because of his station in life, he’s resigned himself to poverty and being creative with the food he can afford (or steal – although it’s not stealing if nobody wants it). But things are about to change. OH BOY!
Cut back to Remy, the superstar restaurant owner. Remy is managing his staff as they prep for the lunch rush. Well, more accurately, he’s pretending to be involved. His shouting is entirely motivational, but it has nothing to do with fine dining. Literally nothing. His chef’s outfit couldn’t be less appropriate. Every time he tries to give actual cooking advice, the other chefs patronize him; when he’s not watching, they make fun of him.
Suddenly Remy panics. “Where’s Maximus?” he asks. The chefs all pause as he cries and loses his composure. One of the cameramen asks who Maximus is. Remy says that he’s the restaurant mascot – a turtle – and also his best friend.
As fate would have it, Maximus is in the back alley, right where Linguini is strolling. Linguini stops for the turtle and starts conversing with him about his life, then calls himself insane for thinking the turtle would understand him. In fact, Linguini becomes so irritable with how miserable his existence is that he almost throws Maximus into the nearby canal.
But then Remy sees him from the window. He bolts outside, snatches Maximus excitedly, and thanks Linguini profusely. Linguini, a bit confused by the cameramen (keep in mind this is the 1900s), accepts Remy’s gratitude. Remy leaves Linguini, but Maximus groans with hunger. Remy panics. Thinking quickly, Linguini forages along the bank of the canal for a cluster of herbs and roots. He mashes them together into a paste and feeds it to Maximus. Maximus burps contentedly.
Remy is in awe. “You can cook?” he says with all the shock of an elite. “Yes, but so can you,” Linguini replies. Remy confesses that he can’t cook, but that maybe Linguini could help. After all, Remy wants his employees to take him seriously.
They decide on a plan. Linguini will come up with recipes for Remy to prepare, and Remy will pass them off as his own. When Remy’s not at the restaurant Linguini teaches him the basics of cooking, as well as some unique concoctions that he’s learned from the school of hard knocks. BONDING MONTAGE!
A week later, their scheme is ready. Remy prepares a soup based on Linguini’s training, and it’s a hit! All of Remy’s chefs are impressed, and they feel a bit of shame for not taking Remy seriously. Remy is a good sport, for the most part, though he definitely gives them a hard time. We see this happen over the span of several days – Linguini watches from the sidelines, helping Remy ‘earn’ his place in the spotlight. End act one.
Act two, we have the crowd from the Titanic attend the restaurant (Rose, Caledon, Ruth, Molly, Bruce, etc.). The documentary crew overhears them discussing their upcoming voyage on the Titanic, the world’s finest luxury ship. And guess what – the ship needs a head chef. But not just any head chef, an expert chef, somebody who will cater the finest excursion known to man.
Naturally, Remy is confident that he will be the chef. He tells the group that he’ll gladly take the job. They all joke that it’s not up to them to decide, it’s up to Harry Duggins, the best food critic in the land.
At this point, the audience needs reminding that Titanic was a movie 20 years ago, so we have a brawl outside the restaurant involving Leonardo DiCaprio and a rich man. But wait – Rose isn’t paying attention to him! Instead she’s daydreaming about a life other than this one. She imagines an entire music video called ‘Equal Rights’ where she imagines a world where women can do whatever they want. This fantasy is cut short by Ruth, her mother, who snaps her back into reality as Leonardo (Jack) is arrested. “Men like that will leave you stranded on a door in the end,” Ruth says prophetically. Rose is puzzled by the seemingly random remark. Suffice to say, she doesn’t see what Jack looked like. Good thing they’ll meet again…
Alright, enough of that tangent plot which literally only exists as fan service. Remy and Linguini begin preparing for the night of Duggins’ visit. Apparently he’ll be sampling restaurants in the next month to find the chef for the Titanic. So, Linguini teaches Remy how to make ratatouille (about which Remy repeatedly remarks, “but it’s a peasant’s dish!”)
Meanwhile, Linguini’s son Fabrizio gets arrested. They have one final father-son moment, where Linguini tells him not to run with the wrong crowd. Otherwise, he might get crushed by a falling tower one day. Fabrizio is puzzled by the seemingly random remark, and their conversation ends abruptly. It’s hinted that Fabrizio will become friends with Jack, because the two of them ride in the back of the carriage together on the way to prison. End act two.
Act three, the night of Duggins’ test. The town is electric – all the elite who frequent the restaurant are ecstatic that Remy, their favorite chef, might be with them on the boat, cooking his famous food yet again. Linguini humbly hides in the background, as he’s grown accustomed to, and doesn’t take any credit. Although he knows how underdog stories work so he’s not too worried.
Enter Duggins – a thin, scrawny fellow with a gaunt face and a single monocle. Duggins sits down, and it’s basically the scene from Ratatouille. He eats the meal, remembers his childhood, etcetera etcetera, and asks to thank the chef for the meal.
“This is the moment,” Linguini thinks to himself. He’s outside in the alleyway peering anxiously through the window. Remy talks about his inspiration, about his ‘little chef’. He walks over to the window – Linguini’s heart is racing. Remy clears his throat. “And I couldn’t do it without… Maximus.” He picks up Maximus, who had been crawling on the counter, and holds him up proudly to Duggins. He rambles about how Maximus inspires him, and Duggins is moved to tears. He offers Remy the position of head chef on Titanic, no questions asked.
Later, Remy and Linguini argue. Linguini refuses to help him any longer and quits. Remy says that he’ll let him go on the ship with him – I mean, obviously he needs Linguini if he’s going to keep up the facade of being an expert chef. But Linguini feels betrayed and refuses.
The next day, one of the customers (Molly Brown) orders a fancy tea, but she insists that Remy prepare it. The other chefs have grown wise to Remy’s deception, and they happily watch as he fumbles his way around the kitchen. He brings out the tea nervously to Molly. She, like the chefs, is also aware of Remy’s lies. In a kind but firm tone she tells him, “that’s your man out there! There’s plenty of room for more!” Remy is puzzled by the seemingly random remark, but Molly slaps him and yells at him to make amends with Linguini.
Remy (still followed by the documentary crew) apologizes to Linguini and tells him he can go on board the ship, and be the head chef. Linguini rejects his offer, but then Remy adds that he himself won’t be on the ship. Linguini will take his place entirely – after all, Linguini is the real chef, not Remy. Linguini is pleasantly surprised by Remy’s first sign of humility and accepts the offer. We have one final montage of Remy and Linguini over the next few months, everything from Remy publicly admitting that Linguini is his inspiration, to Linguini preparing to board. A soothing piano rendition of “I’m so Humble” plays in the background.
On the ship, Linguini runs the kitchen masterfully, delighting the guests with his unique treats. In the final shot, we see him spotting his son Fabrizio, running across the deck with Jack. He smiles and knows that his life is complete. He gives one final inspirational speech to complement his opening remarks.
Roll end credits, with “My Heart Will Go On” playing.
We end with a post-credits scene filmed by the documentary crew. It’s a shot of Remy buying the morning paper and seeing that the ship sank. He gasps as he realizes what happened, then breaks the fourth wall and asks what the moral of the story is, given that he survived and Linguini died. He pops open his shirt, pulls out the lapel mic, and walks off set in protest. Pan to James Cameron in a director’s chair, his head in his hands.