DVD Review: Love's Kitchen (2011)

Now Available to Own

Original Title: No Ordinary Trifle

When you’re friends with the TV chef that heats his Michelin star recipes over the flames of Hell’s Kitchen Nightmares – with a sautéed F-Word starter on the side – it’s safe to say you’ve probably had your fair share of salty opinions.

And perhaps that’s why it takes Gordon Ramsay all of two minutes in a blink-and-you’ve-missed-it culinary intervention Love’s Kitchen cameo to throw a cold cup of hard truth in the face of grieving widower Rob Haley, played by Tom Cruise’s MI:2 bully and hunky Ever After prince Dougray Scott.

After a snappish finger-pointing display of shoutastic terse “get it together” clichés, Ramsay angers our lead into action, egging Rob out of the pan of mourning into the fires of restaurant proprietorship in less than the time it takes to scramble an actual egg.

But even though he survived Ramsay’s strongly-worded drive-by, after purchasing the location his wife had been telling him about in a final cell phone conversation before an abrupt car crash took her life Rob remains understandably sensitive when it comes to those who opine.

Eager to prepare “real food with real heart,” although he’s seemingly lax on the popular “no shoes, no shirt, no service” policy, Rob goes against tradition with a “No Dogs or Critics” mandate for his small English pub.

While the single father is quick to give into his customer’s four-legged friends, the only thing that will change his mind about critics is a change of heart.

And despite the fact that Kate (Meet Joe Black’s Claire Forlani) flashes Rob a middle finger well before she flashes him a smile in the film’s manufactured RomCom “meet cute” device of dislike turned to lust, once the American food critic that nearly everyone would describe as “sexy” amazingly uses the same exact word to describe Rob’s pudding trifle, we suspect that she’ll be the exception to the rule.

While a clever moniker can’t make up for the bland contents of writer/director James Hacking’s cute but forgettable formulaic feature-length debut, replacing the far more creative UK original title No Ordinary Trifle with the generic Love’s Kitchen isn’t exactly going to prevent this trifle from blending in with the rest of the straight-to-DVD works collecting dust on the shelf.

Never quite managing to find the right way into the story, Hacking gets things off on the wrong foot with a ridiculously artificial and awkwardly tragic introduction to our main character before following it up with three false starts, making the tonal switch from dearly departed drama to uplifting underdog story to contrived romantic comedy that much more out of sync.

Though it takes awhile for the story to catch up with the energy of its actors and opens for business alongside Rob’s pub, it’s ultimately bogged down by flavorless subplots, day-old ingredients and cheesy characters (including a dubious panty wearing villain).

While I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Hacking’s half-baked Trifle in place of more savory romantic culinary fare like Chocolat, Mostly Martha, Eat Drink Man Woman, and Like Water for Chocolate etc., the harmless well-intentioned made-to-order confection offers enough empty calories of predictability and affable star power to serve as a snack sized portion of movie comfort food.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.