No Reservations (2007) starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson, Jenny Wade, Bob Balaban directed by Scott Hicks Movie Review

No Reservations (2007)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Aaron Eckhart and Catherine Zeta-Jones in No Reservations (2007)

Too Many Reservations

Whilst many critics have waxed lyrical about "No Reservations" with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart, I am of a different mind and to play on a pretty obvious pun, I still have many reservations. The issue for me is that "No Reservations" seems to be confused as to what it wants to be, in places it's cutesy but not in any way funny enough to be a comedy, whilst at times it's a little dramatic but not to the extent that it shows any real drama. So in between being a bit funny and a bit dramatic you are left with fundamentally a routine romantic story which meanders along suffering from a lack of a strong element to give it a direction.

Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones - Ocean's Twelve) is the head chef at a fancy Manhattan restaurant, who is completely dedicated to her work and controls her kitchen with military precision. We're not talking the female version of Gordon Ramsey but the strictness of the way she works and her passion is no doubt similar, so much that she has no fear in tackling complaining customers head on. Things get messy for Kate when her sister suddenly dies and she is left to bring up her young niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin - The Santa Clause 3), an area which she has no experience of and so struggles trying to balance parenting with her job. Whist dealing with the stress of losing her sister and instant parenthood, the owner of the swanky restaurant employs a sous chef, the flamboyant and flirtatious Nick (Aaron Eckhart - The Missing) to cover for Kate in her absence. But the difference in styles soon causes issues, between the contrasting chefs.

Abigail Breslin as Zoe in No Reservations (2007)

Rather strangely, "No Reservations" is a remake, not of a hugely old classic movie but of a movie released in 2001 called "Mostly Martha". Having not seen the original comparison is impossible, but hopefully "Mostly Martha" has the strong element which is lacking in this version.

Here's the thing once "No Reservations" finishes setting the scene as to how Kate, Zoe and Nick come together then nothing of any real interest happens. It becomes completely routine with a love-hate romantic storyline which is void of originality and falls into an entirely predictable climax. Now I know the saying goes "If it isn't broke don't fix it", but this sort of movie has been done with much greater success in the likes of "You've Got Mail" and so needs to throw some creativity at us to make it stand out. Maybe I was duped into believing that "No Reservations" was going to be much more as the trailer played heavily on it being a funny movie, except the trailer, like so many, actually used the majority of the funny scenes that appear in the movie.

Although I am not really disappointed with the characters and find Eckhart's interpretation of a flamboyant chef quite enjoyable, it is the interaction between the characters which fails to really ignite me. For a love hate relationship the chemistry between Eckhart's Nick and Zeta-Jones's Kate is sadly lacking. Okay so I know that the character of Kate is a focussed chef and so part of the movie should be about breaking down that focussed, strict barrier but it never really works. The whole relationship lacks passion and intensity which this sort of movie needs to really work. It left me with a feeling that "No Reservations" had been toned down so that it could get a PG certificate and in doing so had made it quite flat where as a bit of amusing raunchiness would have spiced it up perfectly.

Though the romantic chemistry is severely lacking, whenever a scene focuses on the young Zoe the interactions work brilliantly. Abigail Breslin, who shot to fame in M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" and then won acclaim as well as an Oscar nomination for her role in "Little Miss Sunshine", is pretty much the saving grace to "No Reservations". There is something instantly likeable and quirky about her and her character makes a change from the norm for this sort of movie, which tends to favour sickly cute children.

What all this boils down to is that "No Reservations" is a slightly below average romantic movie, lacking in enough comedy to be seriously taken as a rom-com but equally lacking in story and tension to call it a drama. It's the sort of movie which doesn't offend, but doesn't offer anything in the least bit new to movie goers. "No Reservations" is the sort of movie which you will enjoy if you like mildly charming, easy going movies such as "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle" but don't expect to get a fuzzy warm feeling from it or anything close to a lasting impression.

Tags: Instant Families