Today's Special
Aasif, you’re shopping for food, not men.


Theatrical Release Date: 11/19/2010
Director: David Kaplan
Cast: Aasif Mandvi, Jess Weixler, Madhur Jaffrey, Harish Patel, Naseeruddin Shah, Kevin Corrigan, Dean Winters


Trailer:

Just like while driving, using a cellphone while cooking shouldn’t be allowed without a hands-free device.

Food. We all have to eat it to survive. As such, films centered on food seem to appeal (no pun intended but welcome nonetheless) to everyone. Such is the case with “Today’s Special”, from director David Kaplan.

The film’s premise is a simple one. Aasif Mandvi plays an aspiring chef, hoping his boss (Dean Winters) will give him a shot at running his own kitchen. When Mandvi’s father becomes ill, the journey to a glamorous culinary career is sidetracked as he must run the family Indian restaurant.

Of course, being the food snob that he is, Mandvi doesn’t know how to cook from the soul and ends up under the tutelage of a taxi driver/chef/lifestyle coach (Naseeruddin Shah). As anyone who’s ever seen a film before can tell you, this wise mentor/headstrong pupil relationship leads to the student learning about more than just the literal tasks being applied.

Although the premise is anything but original, Kaplan and his cast get it right. The film is a crowd pleaser and while there could have been a bit more attention put on the food, it’s still quite enough to make you think about having a fourth meal in the day (whether or not you’re a hobbit).

Acting wise, everyone hits theirs marks. Mandvi has played serious roles before but nothing like this, where he’s front and center the whole time. He pulls it off with ease, the comedic sensibilities most people are familiar with helping to balance out the negative energy his character exudes initially because of being so cut off from his heritage and so focused on his career rather than his life.

Playing the love interest is Jess Weixler, and falling in love with her is as difficult as remembering to breathe. Watching her and Mandvi, I often found myself grinning like an idiot without realizing it (thankfully, no one was around to mock me at the time). Kevin Corrigan is a nice touch but he’s very underused and I wish his role had been expanded.

What sells the film as a whole though are Harish Patel and Madhur Jaffrey, playing Mandvi’s parents. Patel is a recognizable character actor whose sour exterior barely masks the warm and fuzzy insides. Jaffrey pulls off the disappointed mother perfectly and although we can see exactly where the family dynamic is going from their first scene together, it’s like eating chicken noodle soup – no matter how many times we’ve had it, the experience continues to be enjoyable.

While I thought that the diners’ reactions near the end of the film were far too ever the top, other than that slice of cheese, “Today’s Special” his all the requisite marks and charms its way not only into your stomach but your heart as well. A 3.5 out of 5, this sweet, little gem is like comfort food for the soul. And any film that makes me write like a fortune cookie must have done something right to chip away my sarcastic and cynical exterior, right?