Kate (Catherina Zeta-Jones) is a bossy alpha female who’s also executive chef at a highbrow Manhattan joint called 22 Bleeker. When her sister dies she’s charged with taking care of needy little niece Zoe (a cranky coy mistress).
Self-involved Kate is clueless. Enter lover interest Nick (Aaron Eckhart), an ambitious sous-chef. Nick explains owes his career to ex-Italian lover Sofia who taught him to cook — in Tuscany of course (sigh). Kate, meanwhile, tries wooing winsome cranky Zoe with the likes of, “I know I’m doing everything wrong but I’m doing the best I can.” Scott Hicks’ dreadful movie (hard to believe he directed “Shine”) splits affinity between girl-bonding and romantic comedy with food as a condiment.
But all is under- or overcooked. Zeta-Jones shows about as much interest in the story as carp pudding. Hicks rams in soundtrack (arias abundant) to make up for narrative shortfall. Before long it’s a puddle of embarrassing schmaltz. To her therapist, Kate say: “I wish there was a cookbook for life.” Oh, my.
If food’s the thing, fish out Stanley Tucci’s 1996 “Big Night.”