U.S. Release Date: July 27, 2007
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Scott Hicks
Writer: Carol Fuchs
Producer: Sergio Aguero, Susan Cartsonis (executive), Kerry Heysen
Composer: Philip Glass
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson, Jenny Wade, Bob Balaban, Brian F. O'Byrne
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (some sensuality and language)

Comedy-Drama Made to Order
by Scott Holleran

"Sometimes, life isn't made to order" goes the line for No Reservations starring Catherine Zeta-Jones—but this pat, predictable comedy-drama certainly is and it still cooks a surprisingly delightful meal with Zeta-Jones as the main dish.

She stars as hard-driving Kate, a workaholic Greenwich Village chef who's forced to balance her interests in career, romance and family when tragedy strikes. Zeta-Jones gamely braves the lights with minimal makeup and she looks lovely as the culinary perfectionist with virtually no personal life and the lack of voice mail to prove it. Even her controlling boss Paula (Patricia Clarkson) insists she get therapy.

Along comes smooth, dimpled Nick (Aaron Eckhart), whose primary goal is to work with the notoriously demanding Kate, and her food creations do look delicious. With Nick masking his insecurities with a loose-and-loud clown persona, shrewish Kate is set to step right into love. But do not be fooled by the trailer; this isn't merely a cute contest of kitchen wits. No Reservations strives for something more substantial and it largely succeeds.

Before Kate and Nick spar over the posh restaurant's stove, placed in competition by proprietor Paula, a jarring realignment of Kate's tidy routine occurs, causing her to reexamine priorities and incorporate her niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin, noticeably thinner than she appeared in Little Miss Sunshine) into her busy days. Compliant Zoe's more interested in stuffed animals and having the right scarf to wear to school—in other words, she's a kid—and obstinate Kate isn't ready to adjust, despite her therapist's (Bob Balaban on the money every time) best efforts.

As pre-packaged as a Stouffer's frozen entrée and about as nutritious, No Reservations has zest and, best of all, a delightfully uncomplicated happy ending, like a last fork full of meat-saucy lasagna. Romanticizing New York City into an old-fashioned blended block party, with everything but a kind butcher named Sal, and a few twists to keep things turning, it's easy to relate to the story's distinctive characters.

Breslin's Zoe nearly walks away with the picture, and it's a credit to writer Carol Fuchs that a girl eating a plate of food is portrayed as healthy, but it's Zeta-Jones who runs the gamut of emotions and leads the solid cast to No Reservations' just deserts. An Italian opera tuned soundtrack makes it easy on the ears as well as the eyes.

No Reservations is admittedly manipulative and it is made for people who are inclined to relish the prospect of cooking dinner for an overextended mom. That's bound to cause the Homer Simpson types to want to wretch. Let them snicker at this enjoyable motion picture—which in spots resembles Kramer Vs. Kramer in reverse—because that is exactly the point.

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