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Stars: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson, Bob Balaban
Director: Scott Hicks
There's a certain, though rather fragile surface charm to this Hollywood remake of a German hit, Mostly Martha. This time round it's Zeta-Jones as Kate, a career-driven (and very touchy) chef who suddenly finds herself landed with her 10-year-old niece Zoe (the immensely talented Breslin) when her sister is killed in a car crash.
What with that and the arrival in her restaurant of co-chef Nick (Eckhart), who has taken over in her absence and deafens the kitchen with Italian operas, Kate's well-ordered life is turned upside down.
Her abrasive relationship with Nick softens when she brings her niece to the restaurant, and he draws the child out of her shell. But it all backfires when the school, disturbed at the child falling asleep in class, takes the (unbelievable) step of threatening to put Zoe into foster care.
Hereabouts dodgy plot threads start to resemble a plate of spaghetti. It's not convincing that Kate would ask Nick to stay on at the restaurant in the first place, nor that she fails to explain to Zoe that it's the school that insists she doesn't go to the restaurant. And the rare steak argument, copied from the original, looks plain daft here, since the steaks the customer sends back are obviously perfectly rare in the first place.
Zeta-Jones' strange, unblinking eyes are a constant distraction, but she does just about convince as a workaholic chef and has some (if not much) chemistry with her amiable co-star, whose permanent five o'clock shadow would surely chafe her perfect skin. It gets by as over-easy entertainment.
USA 2007. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
102 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.
Review date: 26 Aug 2007