An Indian restaurateur (Om Puri) and his family open Maison Mumbai in a quaint town in southern France—as it happens, directly across the picturesque lane from the Michelin-starred, classical French eatery Le Saule Pleureur, overseen by the haughty Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Culinary culture clashes ensue.
Fine so far. But about halfway through the film’s two-hour running time, they all realize that, well golly, they’re not so different after all, and after that it’s all postcard-pretty sweetness and light, and it veers off into irrelevant tangents.
Don’t get me wrong; at a time when too many movies are geared toward the questionable tastes of preteen boys, there’s certainly room for sweetness and light and movies made for grownups. And no movie featuring Helen Mirren and Om Puri can ever be bad. It’s just that for a movie about food, especially spicy Indian fare, this innocuous crowd-pleaser is pretty bland.
Directed by Lasse Hallström, who hasn’t made a really good movie since 1999’s The Cider House Rules, and has even sunk so low as to direct a couple of films adapted from Nicholas Sparks drivel. Not great, but diverting. Call it the cinematic equivalent of comfort food.
Japanese title: Madame Mallory to Mahō no Spice. (122 min)