There is one food analogy waiting to be written for every inch contained within The Hundred-Foot Journey (opening today), that would help in describing just what went wrong. The new film is based on the hit novel by Richard C. Morais, produced and backed by super-powers Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. "Plain vanilla," "not enough spice" and "lacking flavor" come to mind immediately, as The Hundred-Foot Journey is just cliche-ridden sludge, every step of the way. Never have I seen a film about food feel so passionless.
As the story goes, the Kadam family is driven from their homeland in India when their family restaurant is ravaged and burned to the ground by militants. "Papa" (Om Puri) picks up and whisks his family off to France to set up shop and rebuild their lives. When their car conveniently breaks down, they locate to a nearby town, where Papa discovers the perfect setting and location for his new Indian restaurant. Problem is, the abandoned building is right across the street - a hundred-feet or so - from a classy French restaurant ran by the stuffy Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Much of the film deals with their clash of cultural differences and how (yawn) they actually can both become better at their trade by influencing and embracing the other's culture.
Although there is a budding relationship between the widowed Papa and Mallory, their tale is secondary to that of Papa's oldest son, Hassan (Manish Dayal). As a child, he learned the true passion of cooking, using all of his senses, and he has grown into quite a talent in the kitchen. He falls for Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), a sous chef at Mallory's restaurant, and once again lives intertwine.
If it all wasn't so predictable and tired. If you've seen any movies at all over the past 50 years, you have seen every thematic ingredient presented in this film. Mirren and Puri are very good, but they are playing two-dimensional characters. The two leads, Dayal and Le Bon, have zero chemistry and neither have the screen presence to real command their scenes.
In the hands of a lesser "chef," The Hundred-Foot Journey would be a disappointing disaster, but in the hands of director Lasse Hallstrom, it is merely disappointing. Still, for a film that is all about food, adding spice and expanding one's senses to the world around them, this movie does shockingly little to inspire and arouse the audience's senses. Shouldn't you at least leave feeling hungry? I've seen better looking food on screen in a Wendy's commercial.
Maybe I'm being too hard on it. The Hundred-Foot Journey isn't awful, it won't make you gouge your eyes out or run for the exits. But it does nothing to draw you in. I heard the book was life-changing and inspirational...the movie is anything but.
Run Time: 2 hours 2 minutes, Rated PG
Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe
Based on the book by Richard C. Morais
Adapted for the screen by Steven Knight (Locke, Dirty Pretty Things)
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Safe Haven, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Dear John, Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, What's Eating Gilbert Grape)
Opens locally on Friday, Aug 8, 2014 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time