The Hundred-Foot Journey Blu-ray Review
Summer is a good time for feel good movies. Usually we’re bombarded by explosions, superheroes, sequels and the inevitable raunchy comedy. We need a mental break or something that divvies up the monotony of the summer blockbuster. If you’re thinking about the summer of 2014, the most likely candidate for that definition would be Jon Favreau’s CHEF. On the lesser end, you’ll find THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, but that’s not to say it’s a bad movie.
If anything it’s a very uplifting film with eye rolling banality and a misguided marketing campaign. I remember when this came out; Helen Mirren’s face was front and center as if American audiences would only see this if they had a recognizable white face to drag them into the theaters. That’s why it’s good to see on the blu-ray cover, an even balance of the fantastic English actress as well as her Indian counterparts.
While Mirren’s character, Madame Mallory, is an integral part of our tale, it’s really the story of Hassan (Dayal), a shy, yet astute boy. He shows a young curiosity for food and at such an early age, he watches over his mom with a vigorous hunger for food knowledge. He asks about every spices and every pinch of dust sprinkled in the concoction. Hassan’s mother views food in a unique way. She perceives her culinary work in a more spiritual manner, believing that there’s a deep religious connection between us and the food we prepare.
While those scenes are some of the best written in the film, she doesn’t have much screen time. An unexplained, violent revolution leads to the death of his mother. Hassan and the rest of his extended family escape unharmed and trek towards colder territories, Europe. Britain’s a bit too cold for this family that’s use to living under the sun, so they quickly relocate to the lushest part of France. It actually took me a while to realize this story is contemporary because they’ve found the one town that lives for the moment and isn’t nose deep in their digital screens.
From the very first step into town, Hassan’s father, (Puri) through some kind of premonition, decides that this is the town where they will start anew by opening a restaurant. I guess he’s a culinary master too. He’s already found the perfect space, but the only problem is, it’s across from one of the most celebrated French restaurant’s in the country, owned by Madame Mallory. With such a charming set-up, it’s sad to see it devolve into a predictable film.
It knows how to waft some delicious and appetizing smells, but by the time you see what they’ve been cooking, you’re disappointed. It’s hard not to spot the obvious clichés, but a simple mislead here or there would have really boosted some of the uncertainty that viewers could feel. Take for example, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon). She’s one of the lovely, helpful cooks in Mallory’s restaurant. From the moment we spot her and the cooking connection that her and Hassan bond over, we know she’s the obligatory love interest. And with a movie stretching over two hours, it begins to feel like a dry dinner conversation that won’t end.
Despite my reservations, this is a movie that comes from the heart and it’s really hard to disrespect someone else’s heartwarming zeal. It’s admirable to see something so positive in the terms of its message about family, togetherness and love, but I needed to be wooed more to fully enjoy the cultural clashes, the comedic moments and dedication by the actors, so that I wasn’t so focused on how contrived everything was.
Maybe I’m not the right audience for this or maybe I’m not the right age to appreciate this. Maybe I need a couple of more mindless action movie filled summers to reflect on something that simply tries to stimulate happiness and hope in its viewers. Maybe all I really needed was a glass of wine and a gourmet dinner to curb my grumbling stomach while the film rolled. If you’re looking for something pleasant, that you want to watch and wind down with after a long day, this is your best bet. Unless you have a copy of CHEF lying around somewhere.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) For a movie that’s so rich in color and food, presentation is key and this blu-ray delivers. This movie gets high marks for its display, which helps highlight the warm colors of the spices and natural colors of the rolling French countryside.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) With a skip happy drum beat, the soundtrack never becomes overbearing and the overall audio mixing comes out great.
The Hundred-Foot Journey with Steven Spielberg & Oprah Winfrey (12:14): As titled, this is a feature that has Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg talking about where the idea came from to make this movie as well as producing the movie. I guess I was unaware that they were close in anyway because they seem very comfortable around each other. They mainly dish on a lot of the family values in this, sandwiched between compliments towards each other.
The Recipe, The Ingredients, The Journey (16:06): It’s a by the books behind the scenes look at everything. They touch upon the acting, setting, writing, etc., all of it is looked at here. It’s short, sweet and to the point.
On Set with Oprah Winfrey (3:53): Feels like she’s rehashing a lot of what she discussed with Spielberg. Almost feels like she’s fulfilling a contractual obligation to have her own feature. Luckily it’s not too long, but if you’re an Oprah fan, you’ll eat it up.
Coconut Chicken (5:09): Feels like a Food Network special without all the commercials and dumbing down for suburbanites. It’s fairly interesting watching a chef cook the coconut chicken dish. You’ll most likely be craving some well-made chicken after this short cooking snippet.