The Bock’s Office: ‘Hundred-Foot Journey’ has plenty of flavor | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘Hundred-Foot Journey’ has plenty of flavor

Indian cook Hassan (Manish Dayal) and French restaurant owner Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) collaborate on a dish in "The Hundred-Foot Journey." The movie is about an Indian family that opens a restaurant in France directly across the street from a business with well-regarded cuisine.

The universal love of food is one that goes beyond any language barriers or geographic borders. But the message that we all just want to fill our bellies, be it with curry or hollandaise sauce, isn't all that the film "The Hundred-Foot Journey" has on its list of specials.

Ever since being displaced from their Indian home, the Kadam family has been seeking a locale to revive their restaurant and get their lives started again. While on the move through continental Europe, the family patriarch (Om Puri) finds what he thinks will be the perfect place for their business to begin anew on the outskirts of a quiet French village.

The conflict: The building is directly across the road from an elite eatery known as the best-loved and best-rated for miles around, with its owner, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), ready to do whatever it takes to keep her customers, with hostilities coming near the boiling point.

Nonetheless, the new development, known as Maison Mumbai, finds its own loyal clientele thanks to the delectable menu crafted by son Hassan (Manish Dayal), whose talents as a chef don't go unnoticed by his main competition.

Hassan's desire to keep peace between the two establishments changes when he is given the chance to take on a prestigious new job, which would mean giving up his past that instilled his love for cooking in the first place.

Mirren is at her haughty best as the queen of high standards in haute cuisine, whether it's comparing a piece of flaccid asparagus served at one of her tables to the disappointment of a lifetime or sneering at the wooden Taj Mahal decor that goes up across the street. Don't even try to get her to like the sounds of Indian music. Turning up the volume only makes it worse …

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Madame Mallory starts as an acquired taste and soon develops into something quite sweet, in her own way, nothing like the snobby restaurateuse image she wants to convey, but Dayal's Hassan is not fooled for an instant, recognizing her ardor for the art of cooking being like his own, which was nurtured by his late mother (Juhi Chawla).

The younger Kadam may be interested in expanding his palate with less potent spices than he grew up with, but it takes some convincing for his papa to consider anything other than the food he knows best, with Puri offering great Old World charm as the man for whom tandoori and samosas represent the spirit of his wife, whom he still refers to in the present tense.

Hassan's younger siblings' horrified reactions to boeuf bourguignon and the young chef's attempts to fuse French food with that of his own culture makes for a great tale of East meets West, with some heat between Hassan and Madame Mallory's sous-chef (Charlotte Le Bon) also adding to the mixture.

This town where the Kadams wind up, almost entirely by accident, is the very definition of quaint, appearing to have been lost in time for the past 50 years. Nobody even seems to mind that all the mayor (Michel Blanc) does is sit at a cafe table and stuff his face.

Maybe the sense of mild whimsy comes from director Lasse Hallström, bringing back the kind of essence he had with "Chocolat," capturing the European countryside and kitchen interiors with typically gorgeous cinematography. Add in a pinch of a score by "Slumdog Millionaire" composer A.R. Rahman, and you've got yourself a perfect presentation.

Audiences can't seem to get enough of the Indian experience, judging by "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Life of Pi" and this year's "Million Dollar Arm," and it's likely they'll enjoy this repast the same.

Unfortunately, the ritualistic preparations — chopping, stirring and taste tests that require a moment to fully savor — that make up the initial courses raise your expectations for an entree that's entirely uninspired, but the finale — dessert? — prevent you from leaving the theater with a poor aftertaste in your mouth.

As a movie, "The Hundred-Foot Journey" isn't about to get the equivalent of a three-star Michelin restaurant assessment. Even so, it's worth suffering through the weaker parts to enjoy the best it has to offer.

Plus, you won't even need a napkin.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go

“The Hundred-Foot Journey,” rated PG

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 122 minutes

Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.