No Reservations

Josh Bell

Take your pick of food metaphors: No Reservations lacks flavor. It’s undercooked. It uses overly familiar ingredients and follows a tired recipe. Whatever cute turn of phrase you want to use, this movie is bland, predictable and tiresome, a thoroughly superfluous romantic comedy with rampant competence but not a single moment of genuine inspiration.

A remake of the 2001 German film Mostly Martha, No Reservations stars Zeta-Jones as New York City chef Kate Armstrong, a no-nonsense taskmaster at work whose personal life is (surprise!) not nearly as focused or together. She spends her therapy sessions cooking new dishes for her analyst and consistently rebuffs the advances of her friendly neighbor. Then, in the grand tradition of movies from Baby Boom to Raising Helen, off-screen tragedy dumps a little bundle of lesson-learning in her lap, in the form of niece Zoe (Breslin), whose single mother dies in a car accident.

At first unable to deal with caring for a child, Kate has to learn to slow down and be more flexible, and to allow her personal life to merit as much importance as her professional one. She also has to contend with her new sous-chef, Nick (Eckhart), a free spirit who likes to play opera CDs while cooking and to whom Zoe takes an instant liking. Will Kate, too, fall for Nick? Only every single person watching the movie knows for sure.

Rather than attacking a familiar formula with gusto, No Reservations moves sluggishly from plot point to plot point, never sure whether it’s about the grieving process, or the opposites-attract romance, or the career woman learning to take time to enjoy life. It ends up being about all of these things, weakly, with little dramatic tension and not much at stake. As a comedy, it’s not particularly funny, and although the three leads are perfectly likeable, they don’t have enough charisma to overcome the inertia of the script and the directing. Here's one more food metaphor for you: No Reservations deflates like a bad soufflé.

No Reservations

** 1/2

Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin

Directed by Scott Hicks

Rated PG

Opens Friday

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