"No Reservations" director Scott Hicks is responsible for the brilliant 1996 film "Shine" and the very good 1999 follow-up "Snow Falling on Cedars." Since those two films, Hicks has nearly disappeared and only the disappointing Anthony Hopkins' film "Hearts in Atlantis" filled up his resume before "No Reservations." "Shine" and "Snow Falling on Cedars" were both intelligent films that strayed from the norm, but with "No Reservations," Hicks creates a formulaic and predictable romantic comedy. With the charismatic and drop-dead gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones starring in the film and overlooked Aaron Eckhart as the leading man, "No Reservations" cooks up a few tasty dishes.
The storyline in "No Reservations" is something we've all seen a few dozen times before. A girl finds a threatening male entering her daily routine. She is first abhorred by the presence of the attractive male and it seems that this person is nothing close to the sort of person she would choose to become romantically involved with. Of course, as the plot thickens, the girl starts to fall for the guy and they become involved in a deep romantic relationship where the man can help the girl find more than just love in the relationship and the man opens up the world to her. These films always need the caring couple to separate, but reconcile before the ending credits for a ‘Happily Ever After' ending.
"No Reservations" is one of these films that follows that familiar story arc very strictly. Kate (Zeta-Jones) is the head chef of a very successful restaurant. She is known for her cooking skills and her unique recipes. However, the restaurant is the only thing that Kate knows until fate shakes up everything she knows and she must take in her orphaned niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin). This isn't the only drastic change in Kate's life; a new Sous Chef is hired, Nick (Eckhart), and Kate feels that the offbeat and free-spirited assistant chef is going to try and replace her from the only world that she knows. Kate finds herself struggling to raise Zoe, while trying to find a peaceful existence in her kitchen with Nick.
While "No Reservations" isn't either the best or worst romantic comedy I've ever seen, its cast is likable enough to keep the film watchable. Zeta-Jones star has fallen some over the years since her "Entrapment" days, but she is a lovely woman and gives a very good performance as the emotionally struggling Kate, who spends her days working in the kitchen or talking to her therapist and trying to find a deeper meaning in life. The actress is asked to shed a few tears in the film and her emotions feel genuine. The actress has portrayed tough and successful women before, but this film requires her to show a little vulnerability in her character. Zeta-Jones is a good actress and if it weren't for her involvement in "No Reservations" wouldn't have been as tasty as it is.
Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin provide a solid one-two supporting cast for Zeta-Jones. I remember Eckhart mostly for his role in "Erin Brockovich." He has never found too many roles that allowed him to become a leading man, but I enjoyed watching Eckhart in this formulaic film. Nick was a character that loved life and made everybody else's life around him more fun. Eckhart may not have the looks that would have him typically cast as a leading man opposite somebody as gorgeous as Catharine Zeta-Jones, but he has the genuine ‘Everyman' appeal that is far more similar to a real man that the pampered pretty boys that typically are cast as leading men in romantic comedies.
Young Abigail Breslin shines in "No Reservations." She has been in front of the camera since her wonderful debut in M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" and has found steady work since then. She was only six when that film hit theaters, but has incredibly busy in the past five years. She has had roles in "Air Buddies," "The Santa Clause 3," "Little Miss Sunshine" and "The Princess Diaries 2." With her strong experience in acting, it is of no surprise that Breslin is able to pull off a performance that asks her to be very emotionally. Her character loses her mother in the film and must struggle to survive in a new life with her aunt Kate.
As I mentioned before, "No Reservations" is as formulaic as a romantic comedy can get. It is quite predictable and it is easy to stay one step ahead of the characters as the story unfolds. The film doesn't provide anything fresh or original, but it is polished enough to be entertaining regardless of its shortcomings. While "No Reservations" is definitely a trip we've all taken before, the scenery is lovely and the company kept on the trip make it a worthwhile journey. In other words, we've all seen pretty much everything presented in "No Reservations" before, but it is still an entertaining movie. The actors are nicely cast and give good performances and the familiar story is worth watching.
Warner Bros. presents "No Reservations" in a good looking 2.4:1 transfer. The film is mastered with the VC-1 codec and features a colorful and detailed transfer. The busy streets of New York City and the busy kitchens populated by its characters all look wonderful in "No Reservations." Contrast and saturation are both on-par with the better looking films released on Blu-ray. While the transfer is quite good, it is not perfect. Some of the darker scenes result in an overly soft image and details are lost in these darker moments. Thankfully, there are not too many of these instances and typically, "No Reservations" looks very good. The source materials used in the film were clean and you'd be hard pressed to find anything bad in the transfer's ingredients.
The sound format provided with "No Reservations" is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is provided in English, French and Spanish. Romantic comedies are not typically aggressive and are vanilla in their sound design, so it isn't all that disappointing that the studio did not provide a TrueHD mix. However, the busy streets of New York City provides a wonderful wealth of ambience and the sizzling sounds of skillets and frying pans sound quite good in the film and I would have loved to have experienced "No Reservations" is a higher resolution sound mix. The rear surrounds do provide a nice amount of ambience, but bass response is almost non-existent. Dialogue is good and clean. This isn't a film to impress with its audio mix, but it sounds good enough considering the subject matter.
The first supplement found on the Blu-ray release of "No Reservations" is an episode ofEmeril Live (42:02). This particular episode features Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin cooking a few recipes based upon the film. I honestly have to state that I cannot stand Emeril and therefore could not get past the first fifteen minutes of this special feature. The second and only remaining feature is titled Unwrapped: (21:03) and has host Marc Summers walking around the restaurant set of the film and interviewing cast and crew. Those interviewed includes Catherine Zeta Jones, Aaron Eckhart and the actual chefs that created the delicious dishes featured in the film. This was another promotional supplement, but was a little more watchable than Emeril.
"No Reservations" is predictable and follows almost every known convention in romantic comedies. However, its cast is quite good and the story has enough minor twists to the keep a balance with the tried and true clichés found during its slim 104 minute running time. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart and young Abigail Breslin are all very good in the film. I preferred director Scott Hicks' earlier films "Shine" and "Snow Falling on Cedars," but "No Reservations" wasn't a bad romantic comedy. The Blu-ray release has a strong visual presentation, but an uninspired sound mix. The two supplements run for about an hour, but are promotional shows filmed to help produce box office returns for the film. While this isn't a great Blu-ray release, it should whet the appetite of anybody looking for a yummy romantic comedy.