No delicacies here. No Reservations is just as bland and predictable as a frozen TV dinner.
What No Reservations needs is a smell-sensitive rat who can cook. Instead, we get head chef Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a perfectionist who runs the kitchen of a swanky Manhattan eatery with an iron fist. Let's just say, she's in desperate need of an attitude adjustment, so in pops new sous-chef Nick (Aaron Eckhart), a free-spirited fellow who cooks by the seat of his pants. Soon, he's got the whole kitchen staff laughing and loving him way more than Kate. Nick tries to charm Kate, too, but she won't have any of it. To top it off, Kate unexpectedly becomes the guardian of her 9 year-old niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin) after her sister dies in a car accident. The understandably distraught Zoe is having a tough time and won't eat any of her aunt's highfalutin cuisine. The little girl only likes fish sticksand, as it turns out, spaghetti, a Nick specialty. Yes, Nick finally melts Kate's heart when he gets Zoe to eat a hearty bowl of spaghetti. You can see where this is going, right? Loveand tomato sauceconquers all.
When you have two incredibly attractive people onscreen together, you want the sparks to fly. Think Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. True, those two were falling in love for real but still, it makes for a more fulfilling and cinematically romantic experience. But alas, it doesn't always work out, and in No Reservations' case, the love story between Zeta-Jones and Eckhart deflates like a fallen soufflé. On their own, they each hold up well: Zeta-Jones is good at being steely but emotionally stunted when it comes to matters of the heart, while Eckhart's easy-going charm and great smile make his Nick an obvious choice for any woman. Get them together, however, and things sag like a wet noodle. Too bad. Breslin is her usual cute self, playing it a little more somber than she did in Little Miss Sunshine, but the little actress ought to be careful not to pigeon-hole herself into the "eccentric but affecting" kid role.
No Reservations also has another knock against it: It's a remake of the German film Mostly Martha, a far more stellarand originaleffort. Natch. Turning a hit foreign film into a studio picture rarely works out; something always gets missed in the translation, which for No Reservations is surprising since Mostly Martha writer/director Sandra Nettelbeck is listed as the co-writer. What Nettelbeck did with Mostly Martha is revolve her story around master chef Martha (played brilliantly by Martina Gedeck) and her quirks and anxieties over suddenly having to raise a child. The love story with the Italian chef is more a pleasant surprise than the driving force. But of course, with No Reservations, the romance is played up for that certain chick flick appeal with two people who have no chemistry. Maybe Nettelbeck was lured into Americanizing her original. For his part, director Scott Hicks (Shine) is definitely capable enough to carve out what he can from this predictable set up, even adding some flair to the kitchen scenes, but he can't quite push No Reservations past its banality.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.