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'Hundred Foot Journey' an uplifting, funny good time

The Hundred Foot Journey


Hollywood and Bollywood join forces to create the delectable confection "The Hundred Foot Journey." It's a combination that earlier brought us one of the year's best films with "Million Dollar Arm" and that finds magic once again with this feel good late summer pleasure. Bollywood is this time represented by the splendid Om Puri. Beneath his deeply resonant voice and tough bulldog face lies a seemingly bottomless depth of heart and soul and the veteran skills of a sly old charmer.

He plays a widower who still seeks counsel from his wife and dreams of opening a successful family restaurant in which to showcase the culinary artistry of his son, Hassan (Manish Dayal). It's a dream that has previously been dashed in several locales. Undaunted, he loads the family into a bus as old and battered as himself and continues his quest for his family's oasis. When the bus breaks down in a small French town with an abandoned restaurant for sale, like an aging Rocky Balboa he proves he's still got something left in the basement.

The equally stubborn and shrewdly cunning Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) stands directly in the way of his success. She's the no-nonsense proprietress of a swanky one star restaurant standing a scant hundred feet across the street that separates their properties. Mirren is at first his perfect adversary, cold and mean spirited. She just as perfectly later reveals a truly decent and vulnerable humanity when animosity towards the outsiders goes too far. She also realizes that she and Hassan may hold the key to everyone's success.

Director Lasse Hallstrom, who previously tempted us with food and outsiders in "Chocolat," beautifully steers a large and wonderfully cast group of characters big and small on a magical journey far greater than the hundred feet between restaurants. Cultures clash and embrace, romance blossoms in the young and old and comedy springs from the most unexpected places. It also celebrates with great sentiment the joy of food and the powerfully evocative memories its smell and taste can elicit.