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The Hundred-Foot Journey

This is the kind of movie you can safely take your mother—or grandmother—to see. Like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it is pleasant, life-affirming, and despite the presence of Indian spices onscreen, bland. Jeff Skoll’s Participant Films became involved with the production because it promotes the concept of cultural understanding through the use of food.

The venerable Om Puri plays the patriarch of a somewhat unruly, itinerant Indian family that whimsically settles in a French village. There, they open a restaurant right across the road from a celebrated establishment run by the imperious Helen Mirren. Her restaurant boasts a one-star rating in the all-important Michelin Guide, and she doesn’t take kindly to the arrival of rowdy intruders—especially as they offer an ”inferior” bill of fare. Puri’s son, a gifted chef bursting with curiosity and ambition, falls in love with one of Mirren’s protégés, a beautiful French girl who works as a sous chef in her kitchen.

Thus, all the ingredients are in place for a lighthearted romance (for the young lovers as well as the more mature leading actors) involving haute cuisine and a somewhat heavy-handed lesson about tolerance.

Photo By François Duhamel - Courtesy Of Dreamworks II

Photo By François Duhamel – Courtesy Of Dreamworks II

One might expect more nuance from screenwriter Steven Knight, whose credits include Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises, and last year’s Locke, which he also directed. But here he is adapting a successful book, by Richard C. Morais, and perhaps could not stray too far from his source material. Director Lasse Hallström guides his actors through their paces, smoothly if not subtly, amidst beautiful French scenery, but I wish someone had tightened the picture, which runs out of steam at the three-quarter mark. (I was going to say something about a soufflé falling, but you get the idea.)

This is the kind of film that seems to be winking at us in the audience from the very start, indicating that nothing is to be taken too seriously. It is merely an entertainment. I accept it on those terms, but I wish I could muster more enthusiasm for the results.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight.

He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies.

His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia.

He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation.

He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?)

He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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