In "Simply Irresistible," Sarah Michelle Gellar(of the WB's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") plays a restaurateurwith a gift for culinary creations that have a magical effect on anyonewho consumes them.
The concept -- while partially pilfered from an inventiveand spellbinding Mexican movie called "Like Water For Chocolate"-- has the potential to be a great catalyst for an enchanted romance, whichis where this picture is trying to go.
On some levels it succeeds. The inevitable recipe-relatedlove scenes are intrinsically sexy, what with all the licking of fingersand passionate meeting of lips that have just devoured delicious desserts.I mean, is there anyone out there whose two favorite things in the worldare not eating and sex?
But from its opening moments, "Simply Irresistible"is distractingly discombobulated.
In the very first scene, before we're even told she isthe owner of and cook at her recently deceased mother's quaint but financiallytroubled Manhattan eatery, Amanda Shelton (Gellar) is awkwardly thrustinto a sloppy Meet Cute involving a guardian angel named Gino (who is neverseen again) and a crab that pinches the leg of a handsome, wealthy, rivalrestaurateur (Sean Patrick Flanery) while she's chasing the crustaceanthrough an open-air farmers' market.
Gino, it seems, was setting her up to meet her destiny,which involves discovering her talisman talent and putting it to good usein pursuit of this fellow -- allegedly quite a catch despite his anal-retentivehabit of charting his romantic satisfaction on a computer spreadsheet.
Gellar and Flanery ("Suicide Kings") definitelyhave chemistry, and he is deadly charming (although in an unsettling waythat is strangely reminiscent of David Cassidy). He's also terrific atplaying a guy swept up in feelings he can't wrap his head around.
I admit it, this movie is cute and romantic. But directorMark Tarlov is betting that the manufactured metaphorical gimmick willmake the target chick flick audience too swoony to notice that the pictureis absolutely riddled with plot holes, continuity errors and good, old-fashionednonsense.
Mynotes from the screening included a couple dozen such observations, someadmittedly nit-picky, so I won't bore you with the rest. Suffice to saythat while many of them are largely forgivable, these problems have a cumulativeeffect that quickly overtakes the potentially engrossing food-love-and-magicstoryline.
- The pivotal development of the film finds Gellar closingher restaurant the day after a positive and high profile newspaper reviewso she can fricassee for the grand opening of Flanery's high society bistroafter his snobby French chef from central casting resigns in a huff.
- Gellar never appears to do anything remotely approachingreal cooking. She just stirs stuff a lot with a wooden spoon. (And if ahealth inspector ever saw this girl cooking in a spaghetti-strapped tanktop and tossing her hair around, her restaurant would be history in twoseconds flat.)
- On at least one of these not-really-cooking occasionsshe has an empty bowl one second, there's a cut away to Flanery, and twoseconds later she's stirring a half-prepared meal.
Then there's the soap opera-quality dialogue ("Thisfood is the perfect poem I never wrote"), the token black best friendbutterfingered into the story almost as an afterthought, and some veryforced comedy (a running gag about how all guys play with their belts whenthey think about sex is painfully contrived).
"Simply Irresistible" isn't without its charms.As I said, Gellar and Flanery have quite a spark between them, the sexualizationof the simple act of eating is pretty potent when restricted to characterswith speaking roles (unfortunately it gets out of hand), and the supportingcast leaves as much of an impression as the leads, especially PatriciaClarkson ("High Art") as Flanery's petulant, sexy and just alittle bit nuts personal assistant.
But this movie is little more than an assembly line affairthat trips over its trite conventions and fails to bring any style or graceto an idea that deserved much better.
It might be a guilty pleasure for some, but "SimplyIrresistible" never becomes the tasty treat it set out to be.