No Reservations
This is why I never want to know what’s in the “secret” sauce.

Theatrical Release Date: 07/27/2007
Director: Scott Hicks
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson

I’m not sure what’s more surprising to me; that Hollywood continues to remake foreign films because apparently it’s too hard to write an original script, or that “No Reservations” was still in theaters despite being released almost two months ago.

Check that, I’m not surprised at Hollywood remaking the very good foreign film “Mostly Martha” into the watered down “No Reservations” … I just wish they hadn’t.

First you have to try to match the wonderful and charming duo of Martina Gedeck and Sergio Castellitto.

Sure, I like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart and they’ve both done good work. Here, though, they fall prey to playing things far too schmaltzy and paint-by-numbers. Of course, I can’t be all that surprised by that because it’s a remake. (Can you tell I’m not a fan of this process?)

For those who didn’t see the original (shame on you), the film’s premise is simple: Zeta-Jones plays an uptight chef who suddenly has to take in her niece (Abigail Breslin) due to a tragedy and Eckhart is the devilish raconteur chef that thaws her frozen heart. And while one of the major plot points was changed (making me appreciate “Mostly Martha” even more), everything else falls into the places you’d expect and it’s done fairly well.

You see, it’s not so much that this was a bad film. It’s just that “Mostly Martha” had so much more complexity going for it.

There were the cultural differences between a no-nonsense German chef and a free-spirited Italian one, the more believable and dour Maxime Foerste as opposed to Breslin’s ray of sunshine (generally) and the chemistry was just so much better in the original film.

Also, almost most importantly, in “Mostly Martha” the food is presented in such a sensual and appetizing manner. It’s a true element of the film, whereas in “No Reservations”, it’s done more casually and with a far less sexy slant. When Eckhart uses it to seduce Zeta-Jones, the intimacy is just missing somehow (probably relating to the chemistry issue).

I know I’m a broken record but why reinvent the wheel? How hard is it to come up with an original, passable script where Zeta-Jones and Eckhart fall in love? How about a film where she’s a struggling single mother, he’s a recently widowed man and they need each other to feel complete and form a full family? Voila! That took me all of 26 seconds to come up with and I can be bought off a lot cheaper than getting the rights to another film (a 40 ounce malt beverage ought to do it).

Still, if you need a predictable and sweet little film, at least this is built upon a good foundation and though they are drastically different films, I’d say this and “Once” are the best date movies that came out this summer.

I did appreciate that they incorporated the Paolo Conte song “Via con me” into the film, as it played an equally significant role in “Mostly Martha”. Also, as a Food Network junkie, I appreciated that Eckhart’s character wore the Mario Batali orange clogs in the kitchen. (You see, I’m a lot of different kinds of nerds all rolled up into one!)

So, a middle of the road 3 out of 5 is what I’m dishing up for “No Reservations”. Though if you like foreign films, just go and check out “Mostly Martha”; why settle for the copy when you can have the original?