The Ratcatcher. Netflix ©2023

Somehow Even a Rat Catcher Is Cute in Wes Anderson’s World

5/5 Rupert and Ralph reenactments

Wes Anderson’s third short film in his series of Roald Dahl adaptations comes with a frightening look at a small town. The Rat Catcher is about two men (Richard Ayoade and Rupert Friend) who have a rat problem where they work. Inspired by Dahl’s life working in a small town himself, Ayoade is a writer and Friend is a car repair man, both tired of the rats ruining their days, so they call up the Rat Man (Ralph Fiennes) to help them.

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Fiennes still plays Roald Dahl in the short film (as he has done previously in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and The Swan.) What’s terrifying about the story is Fiennes’ slow descent into being a rat. It is really Voldemort’s twist into Peter Pettigrew, if you will let yourself go there for a moment. The Rat Man lets himself become the rat so he can catch them easier, but more than that, his obsession with them isn’t one of admiration. It’s an obsession so that he can destroy them. Neither of the men realizes what their request has brought on for the rats until it is too late, seeing what the Rat Man is willing to do to kill a rat.

Featuring a picturesque town that is more sepia than the bright pastels that Anderson has been operating in his work recently, the short teeters on becoming a horror story in the end when we see the lengths that the Rat Man will go to when the life of a rat is in his hands. But somehow, in this midst of this, Anderson has made us love this sweet rat trying to just live his life in the world of man.

I’d protect the rat with my life

Using what feels like a similar animation style to his work in Fantastic Mr. Fox, the rat we finally do get to see in the film is actually very sweet and cute. He’s not trying to hurt anyone, and he’s just sort of sitting until he’s threatened, and as a New Yorker, it is something I’ve come to realize about the city I live in. There are so many people who scream when a rat is nearby, threatening them or acting as if their presence is something that is going to harm them. Most of the time, the rats don’t hurt anyone and mind their own business.

This short, to me, focuses on what men project onto the world around them. They’re so worried about the animals that are in their way that they don’t stop and look and what they maybe shouldn’t be bothered by. Rat wasn’t bothering these men, just living their lives. Now, this rat is dead and they both had to watch the Rat Man aggressively kill him because they couldn’t leave it alone, and that’s something that will be on them.

The most beautiful bit of staging in this short film comes from the fight between the Rat Man and the rat. Instead of having the animation lead it, Anderson uses the theatrical blend he’s been playing with throughout all the short films and has Rupert Friend take on the role of the rat, and he and Fiennes battle as rat and Rat Man, and it really is a fantastic way to weave the battle into the story.

It’s another masterclass of Dahl and Anderson, but yet again, a reminder that these are just short snippets of a world we can built if we give Anderson a bigger platform to tell a Roald Dahl story.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.