STUDIO:  Warner Home Video
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 104 Minutes
- Unwrapped episode

The Pitch

It feels a little like a sitcom pilot filled out with some dramatic beats to make it feature length. Say, Caroline in the City meets meat and potatoes. And I say this knowing nothing of the basic premise of Caroline in the City.

The Humans

Catherine Zeta”-Ray Bill” Jones, Aaron (The Dark Knight) Eckhart, Abigail (Kit Kittredge) Breslin, Bob “Motherfucking” Balaban

“I’m truly sorry…it would seem she’s been exposed to near-fatal levels of Little Miss Sunshine.”

The Nutshell

Kate (Jones) is a workaholic who is very devoted to her job as head chef. You can tell this because she goes to therapy for it, but at therapy she just gives her therapist food. So anyway, her sister dies in the type of accident where the one person dies and the other (in this case, her daughter, played by Breslin) looks to have gotten a severe case of rug burn. So Kate takes her into her home, where they just can’t relate (she’s all like “My mom’s dead!” and Kate is all like “Soufflés!”). Enter fun-loving, free-spirited sous chef (Harvey Two-Face Dent) who likes to sing and dance and generally enjoy life. This is in clear conflict with Kate, who apparently doesn’t go for singing or happiness. Perhaps he’ll break through her gruff exterior and show her to enjoy her job and life? Perhaps some sort of conflict will separate them temporarily? Soup’s on, motherfuckers (original tagline for the film).

Hopes were running high at the outset of the third annual Radio Fans Race for the Cure.

The Lowdown

Light comedies, be it romantic or otherwise, are one of the toughest tightropes for a filmmaker to walk. This is the bread and butter of Hollywood, something it’s been making since its infant stages, so one expects effortless entertainment from this product. However, the problem with that is that those seemingly effortless bits of breezy entertainment usually require more strenuous effort than other works and Hollywood hasn’t seemed to excel at this in many decades. Part of the problem is displayed by movies such as No Reservations; instead of trying to make a light and fluffy comedy with likable characters that you root to join together despite whatever machinations of the plot are thrown at them, these movies tend to add some sort of leaden dramatic element that helps absolve them of the duty of making a diversionary entertainment. This seems to be the role of Abigail Breslin’s character of orphan relative in this movie, to distract you from the fact that the light comedy isn’t being particularly comedic. The drama doesn’t contain any emotion or legitimate pathos at any point, so it comes off as leaden and unnecessary. And when the film tries to turn on the battle of the sexes/romantic comedy switch, the dialogue doesn’t crackle with sex like the best of screwball comedies and the two leads are never given enough time to strike up a truly intoxicating romance on screen, so you’re left with a relationship that comes off as severely undercooked.

“Let’s face it: you either die as dough or you live long enough to become the crust.”

And a food metaphor seems apt for what’s troubling this film most. At the end of the film, it seems like a recipe that seemed good on paper but when put into motion, comes out completely unmemorable. All of the different ingredients (family drama, light romantic comedy, ode to the deliciousness of food) feel like they should blend together into something palatable, but they are still all distinctively separate in the finished product, and don’t feel like they’ve come together into one cohesive dish. In fact, you never really feel like you spend enough time with any of the characters (especially Eckhart’s) to fully understand their motivations or make them unique and complex, despite game performances from almost everyone (and the inclusion of some stellar supporting casting in the form of Patricia Clarkson and the aforementioned Balaban). Instead the film seems happy to hit the montage button whenever possible to condense the moments in which we’d see the characters grow in front of us to try and force emotion instead of earning it.  The direction is certainly competent and moves well but it only manages to put a nice sheen on something that upon further inspection is in need of some substantial revision. It settles for fast food when it should be aiming for gourmet, and while I can’t say the film was bad, it certainly has made no impression on me one way or the other*. Only watch it for initiation into the Talibalaban.

“You mean I went through this nine month prep time and we ain’t even gonna serve Rosemary’s Burger?”

The Package

The cover art skimps on the orphaned child aspect that seems much bigger than the implied antagonistic relationship between the two chefs (which lasts all of three minutes or so in the film, actually), but I’ll take airbrushed mannequins standing in a period photograph over floating heads any day of the week. The film looks good (captures all the gauzy romantic hues used throughout) and sounds fine and comes equipped with a full screen version of the movie as well as widescreen in case you’re a hateful person. The only extra is an episode of the Food Network’s UnWrapped based around the making of this movie, and it manages to be as light and inconsequential as the film itself. Meaning it’s not a slog to watch, but you’ll forget it as soon as the special features menu appears again.

6.0 out of 10

“What do you mean you thought my husband was the one with the stroke?”

*I didn’t like it.  Sous me.