"Vatel" lavishes beaucoup francs on re-creating the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV, in the France of 1671, and then kills the effect with a script that's from hunger. Whatever they spent hiring "Shakespeare in Love" Oscar winner Tom Stoppard to adapt an original screenplay by Jeanne Labrune, they was robbed. What there is of a plot involves cooking. Gerard Depardieu, looking alarmingly beefy, plays Vatel, the steward to the Prince de Conde (Julian Glover). The prince is going bankrupt, but if Vatel can cook up a feast fit for a king when Louis (Julian Sands) visits the prince's country chateau all will be well. That's the movie, with Vatel acting like a pre-Food Network Emeril taking time out for bedding a courtesan (Uma Thurman) and stopping the king's brother (Murray Lachlan Young) from buggering little boys. This putrid dish marks a new low for director Roland Joffe and — mon Dieu — he's the guy who gave us Demi Moore in "The Scarlet Letter."
From The Archives Issue 393: April 14, 1983