Andy Bockelman: 'No Reservations' about seeing this movie

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The romantic comedy "No Reservations" is a relief for anyone who wants to see a chick flick that does not put its story on the back burner.

Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) takes her position as the head chef of a high-scale New York restaurant very seriously; indeed, she has little time for anything else, spending nearly all her free time perfecting her recipes or comparing prices on materials.

Her life changes drastically when her sister Christine (Arija Bareikis) is killed in a car crash and her daughter Zoe (Abigail Breslin) is left in Kate's care. Besides now having a child in tow, Kate also has a new sous-chef in the workplace (Aaron Eckhart) who aggravates her with his easygoing attitude towards cooking. However, when withdrawn Zoe starts to come out of her shell upon meeting Nick, Kate begins to wonder if she could learn something from him.

Zeta-Jones is enjoyable in a role that is realistic and surprisingly deep. A temperamental introvert who keeps everyone at arm's length, from her colleagues (insisting they only refer to her by title) to her therapist (Bob Balaban), whose probing questions she circumvents by slipping him some of her entrees during their sessions, Kate's softening over the course of the story is worth watching.

Eckhart is engaging as Nick, Kate's equal in the kitchen, but complete opposite otherwise, from his Crocs footwear to his messy blond hair. Breslin is fine playing almost the exact same part she did in "Raising Helen."

The three leads do well, but it would be nice if Kate and Nick's boss Paula had more importance; played by Patricia Clarkson (who can never get enough screentime), it seems the part should be more vital than it actually is. For that matter, Balaban's character could use beefing up as well.

This Americanized version of the German film "Mostly Martha" works for most of its intents, even if it does slip into routine material every now and then. Zeta-Jones and Eckhart blend together as well as any of the gourmet dishes they serve, and Breslin is perfectly believable, but what makes the movie work is it does not try to force cheap laughs like so many other romantic comedies.

It allows the audience to appreciate the light-hearted moments without making them dopey or just pointless. A moody musical score by Philip Glass also helps to amplify the more melancholy bits of the story.

All in all, everything is pretty agreeable right up until the hasty conclusion, which is so abrupt it leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.

Viewers should have no reservations about seeing "No Reservations" because for all its faults, the likable story is still worthy of a server proclaiming "Bon appetit!" Now playing at the West Theater.

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