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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a feel-good trip worth taking

Dame Helen Mirren is the British Meryl Streep. The Academy Award-winning actress always adds a touch of class to every film she is in - and she is one of the few movie stars who still makes me sit up and take notice of her cinematic endeavors. Her latest film is The Hundred-Foot Journey, which is based on Richard C. Morais' 2010 novel that Oprah Winfrey apparently enjoyed reading. She is one of the lead producers, and at the sneak preview I recently attended, she told the audience - via a filmed introduction with co-producer Steven Spielberg - that the movie we were about to watch was an "uplifting" story. And she was right. It's a feel-good film that bears some strong similarities to director Lasse Hallström's 2000 drama, Chocolat, about a young woman who opens a chocolaterie in a French village and changes lives. In Hallström's The Hundred-Foot Journey, an Indian family opens a restaurant in a small French town and changes lives. So it's a very familiar tale that is fairly predictable in its outcome - what you think will happen by the end of the film does happen. But despite this unsurprising element, I still had a good time on this Journey - and I would gladly take the trip again.

Ms. Mirren is, of course, wonderful in the role of Madame Mallory, the haughty owner of a French restaurant that is exactly 100 feet from the new Indian restaurant across the street (hence the title). She is not a happy camper about the new family in town playing their loud music and stealing her customers. Will her icy exterior thaw by the closing credits? You already know the answer to that - but it's still a delight to watch this amazing actress strut her stuff. The rest of the cast is equally good, including a scene-stealing Om Puri as the patriarch of the Indian family and Manish Dayal as his handsome son whose impressive culinary skills do not go unnoticed by Madame Mallory and her sous chef (played by the lovely Charlotte Le Bon).

I'm sure The Hundred-Foot Journey is a great summer book to read on the beach. And the film is a charming summer diversion for those of us who are not into Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It's not going to change your life - but you might have a craving for Indian food afterwards. And it's always a pleasure to see Helen Mirren, whose amusing performance will put a smile on your face because that's what feel-good films do best.

The Hundred-Foot Journey opens in theaters on Friday, August 8.

My Grade: A-

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