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'The Hundred Foot Journey' is perfectly pleasant but far from vital

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The Hundred Foot Journey

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Speaking from as much as experience as I possibly can, it is important to follow your dreams and to always be open to it because things may present themselves in ways that you may never expect. "The Hundred Foot Journey" is a charming but simple little story and even though it essentially is two hours of food porn it has enough charisma in the right spots to make it a fun cinematic experience.

Genius comes out in some odd places, as Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) and his displaced family lead by their Papa (Om Puri) settle in a village in the South of France to set up shop and launch their new restaurant. Hassan is a culinary genius but even he knows setting up shop in the south of France might not the best idea, but Papa insists that it is inspiration from the families late matriarch. The Maison Mumbai opens and the chilly owner of the Michelin star winning Le Saule Pleureur , Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) is none too happy about it and all out war between the two restaurants is on. That is however until Mme Mallory realizes how special Hassan is as the burgeoning romance between her sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) and Hassan shows her how special this blending of cultures can not only create magic in romance but in the kitchen as well as these two rivals quickly become the best of friends and they learn more from each other that they could have ever imagined.

It's not the kind of story that changes the landscape of cinema, but "The Hundred Foot Journey" is a nice story with lots and lots of shots of some pretty damn good looking food.

Director Lasse Hallstrom and producer Oprah Winfrey certainly aren't making any grand statements on this one, but as a pure piece of entertainment designed to put a smile on people's faces it works just fine. Based on the novel by Richard C Morais and working from a screenplay by Steven Knight the movie certainly flows well enough but it never generates any genuine drama or even mild tension as it all just sort of sits there on the surface, even those moments that are supposed to be terribly serious just never play that way, and it actually thrives on those moments that play very light. When it tries to be a comedy of errors or a farce, it's actually quite charming thanks to some great performance.

Let's get one thing straight, Helen Mirren could read the phone book for two hours and it would be compelling cinema. She isn't straining herself on this one, but she makes the icy French restaurateur who gets her heart melted by the charming Indian family that moved in across the street a compelling thing to watch. Her chemistry with Om Puri is a very entertaining thing to watch while the romance between Manish Dayal as Hassan and Charlotte Le Bon as Marguerite works very well. No one quite honestly has to generate any real amount of depth or drama, but the sweet nature of it all is just the right balance taking care to not turn overly saccharine and still keep us hooked. No one was bad by any stretch of the imagination, but the material never allowed any one to run away from the pack either.

"The Hundred Foot Journey" isn't going to strain any brain cells but it was never trying to. It's just a nice little story that will help you work up an appetite for your dinner date after the movie is done.

3 out of 5 stars.

"The Hundred Foot Journey" is now playing at theatres across Canada, please check with your local listings for show times.

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