Lasse Hallström has become an expert at making mom-jeans movies, nonthreatening pictures in which headstrong women find love just when they think it's too late and turn small French villages topsy-turvy by opening chocolate shops. But the tragedy and the glory of mom jeans is that they're comfy, at least when they're well engineered. Hallström's The Hundred-Foot Journey, in which the prim proprietress of a trés chic restaurant in the French countryside learns life lessons from a raucous family of Indian emigrees, is almost embarrassingly enjoyable, despite the fact that -- or maybe because -- it's ridiculous in a shiny, Hollywood way. You don't have to buy the plot twists to enjoy Helen Mirren and Om Puri duking it out over which tastes better, coq au vin or tandoori chicken.
There's pleasure in watching them fume, argue, and ultimately make peace under the soft glow of a Michelin star. Puri's Papa is the head of a clan that runs a successful restaurant in India, until a tragedy sends them packing to France. Papa decides to put down roots and open a restaurant. He finds the perfect locale just 100 feet from the hugely successful Le Saule Pleureur, run by the forbiddingly proper Madame Mallory (Mirren).
Hallström ticks off all the boxes: This is a story about redemption and tolerance, about finding love at any age or stage of life, about the way cross-cultural culinary fusion can bring us all closer. But it's loaded with enchanting scenery and wicked food porn in colors so amazing -- the fiery orange-red of a tomato, the bushy green of a parsley garnish -- it could incite stubborn toddlers to eat vegetables