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Today’s Special

Posted by martinteller on July 4, 2014

Samir (Aasif Mandvi) is a sous chef in a high-end restaurant.  When he gets passed over for a promotion that he felt was coming to him, he angrily quits his job and plans to go to Paris for an apprenticeship.  He goes to tell his father Hakim (Harish Patel), who owns an Indian restaurant.  Relations between Samir and Hakim have been strained since the death of Samir’s brother.  Hakim has a heart attack on the spot, and now Samir is stuck running the family business while his father recovers.  He criticizes the chef’s disgusting food and personal habits, and the chef quits.  Samir recruits an eccentric cab driver named Akbar (Naseerudin Shah) to handle the cooking, with surprising results.

In the plot summary above, I’ve omitted the romance with Carrie (Jess Weixler) because it doesn’t fit in that well with the rest of the story.  It’s entirely superfluous, tacked on because there’s got to be a little romance, right?  But Weixler (or her character) is pretty much a zero and brings nothing to the table.  Give the girl at least one personality trait, please.  But that kind of sums up this movie in a nutshell… like Samir, the script is perfectly fine at following a recipe but lacks the spark of originality.

It’s a pleasant film, with some funny bits and charming performances by Shah, Patel and Madhur Jeffrey (as Samir’s mother).  Akbar is basically a stock “mentor” character, but Shah pulls it off with delightful panache.  Sometimes he’ll drop a bit of sage wisdom only to reveal it came from a fortune cookie.  The food on display does look pretty tasty, if not quite as mouth-watering as Eat Drink Man Woman.  Though the story is familiar, there’s a certain comfort in the familiar.  It’s enjoyable enough to kick back with for an hour and a half.  Just don’t expect any surprises.  Everything goes exactly the way you think it’s going to go.  The script — penned by Mandvi himself — isn’t all that bad, despite an all-too-easy ending including one of the most preposterous clapping scenes I’ve ever seen.  But it’s not great, either.  It’s average.  It’s an average movie… some parts are kinda nice and some parts are kinda blah and it all evens out to so-so.  It would earn a few extra points if Samir was a guy you really wanted to root for, but he sort of comes off like a dick a lot of the time and we’re only given sparse tidbits to explain his character.

Some notable secondary roles: Dean Winters (“30 Rock”), Kumar Pallana (several Wes Anderson films), Ajay Naidu (Office Space) and Kevin Corrigan (too many to list).  Rating: Fair (65)


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