Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars
In a summer that’s already been delighted by Jon Favreau’s “Chef”, it’s hard to be charmed once again by the same feel good concept featuring an abundance of food porn imagery. “Hundred-Foot Journey” is definitely treading in paths already traveled, but as we begin to exhaust what’s left of new summer movies, it’s hard to dislike something that tries to be so uplifting.
While the advertising for this movie has gladly slapped Helen Mirren’s face on every single promotional inch of poster, the real main dish to this movie is Manish Dayal. He plays the shy, yet astute Hassan who seems to have a natural curiosity for food from a very young age. He learns quickly from his mother that food is more art than science, although much later in the movie he’s somewhat forced to believe the opposite. Her spiritual connection to food is some of the best writing in the film, but sadly it’s short lived. An unexplained, violent revolution leads to the death of his mother. Escaping what I can only assume is persecution or certain death, he and his family trek towards colder and more northwestern territories.
Britain’s a bit too cold for their liking so they quickly relocate to one the lushest parts of France. They must have found the one town in France where residents aren’t buried into their smartphone screens since everyone chats over tea and coffee and take in Mother Nature’s surroundings. I legitimately had no idea what time period it was until someone pulled out a cell phone. While in town, his father (Puri), through some odd non-visible premonition, decides that their family will open a restaurant across the street (100 feet) from a much celebrated French restaurant. Something about that dust covered building enchants him, much to the dismay of the French restaurants proprietor, Madame Mallory (Mirren). So begins a choppy and misguided rest of the movie that never replicates the exquisite flare that we see in different spicy dishes throughout the film.
The main problem with “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is it’s glaring predictability that knows how to throw out a hook, but forgets to attach any bait. A simple mislead here or there would have added a level of uncertainty to everything that transpires. Even once we meet Marguerite (Le Bon), one of the lovely young cooks in Mallory’s restaurant, we know she’s the obligatory love interest. After two hours, this movie outstays its welcome like an uninvited dinner guest.
Obvious dramedy clichés aside, it’s still very heartfelt with its material and I have to admire a passionate group of actors and actresses who are willing to add a little zest to a dry story. While I wasn’t quite wooed by some of its more comedic moments, I did enjoy some of the cultural clashes, no matter how false they were. Despite my negatives I have to reassure myself that not everything has to break new ground and it’s always beneficial to have some optimistic escapism in your life.
While I may not have the acquired taste to sit in an air conditioned theater and enjoy this movie to its fullest, I can see why others would need this much needed break. If you’re tired of superheroes, raunchy comedies and looking for a peaceful way to wind down in front a movie screen, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is your best bet…unless “Chef” is still playing near you.