The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred Foot Journey
Francois Duhamel/Dreamworks
The Hundred Foot Journey

Helen Mirren looks delicious. So does the food. What more do you want in summer movie escapism? OK, a ban on cultural stereotyping, fewer clichés, and a pace less conducive to napping. Still, unlike the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a time-waster that goes down easy. Based on Richard C. Morais' 2010 bestseller, the movie is set in a picturesque French village that only has room for one restaurant. That would be the Michelin-starred Le Saule Pleureur, an elegant boite run by the widowed Madame Mallory (Mirren) with an iron hand and an outrageous Gallic accent. The Madame practically faints dead away when the newly arrived Kadam family, led by a strict patriarch (the great Om Puri), decide to open an Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai, only 100-feet across the street. Mon Dieu! Those Indian spices and French sauces are soon at war with each other. Ditto the Madame and Papa. All of which leads, after a few dollops of racial antagonism, to love and harmony. Did I mention that Papa has a chef son, Hassan (Manish Dayal), who falls for Madame's sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon)? Well, he does. Hassan ends up training with Madame, a process that works so well that he moves up and out to become the culinary toast of Paris and an arrogant prick. The heavy plot sauce weighs down the movie. Director Lasse Hallstrom had similar buoyancy problems in 2000's bewilderingly Oscar-nominated Chocolat. Here he lucks out big time with Mirren and Puri, two pros who know how to lift an audience over plot hurdles and turn a merely digestable diversion into a treat. Linus Sandgren's camera caresses the cuisine like an ecstatic lover. It brought out the foodie in me.

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