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Overall Rating
2.72

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 8.33%
Average: 33.33%
Pretty Bad36.11%
Total Crap: 11.11%

4 reviews, 12 user ratings


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Last Holiday
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not the worst movie ever made-no thanks to Latifah"
3 stars

“Last Holiday” is a curious example of a vehicle conceived entirely around a star who winds up being the least interesting aspect of the enterprise. The star in question is Queen Latifah, no doubt familiar to most of you from her performances in films such as “Chicago” and “Bringing Down the House” and her incessant television pitches for Pizza Hut. Here, the only high-calorie product that she is selling is herself and she winds up coming off much like one of those pizzas–a little too cheesy to swallow and not nearly as saucy as advertised. And yet, while she fails to make much of an impression, the film does contain some momentary pleasures that go a long way towards making it, if not worth watching at full-freight prices, at least vaguely passable for anyone catching it on cable or during a long plane flight.

Based on a moderately beloved 1950 British film starring Alec Guinness, Latifah plays Georgia Byrd, a shy and repressed cookware saleswoman in a giant department store who has gone through her entire life without ever taking any risks–she won’t talk to Sean (LL Cool J), the hunky co-worker who clearly likes her, she can’t bring herself to raise her voice in her church choir and when she indulges in her passion for cooking fabulous gourmet meals, she gives them to a neighbor kid while she sticks to her Lean Cuisine entrees. After receiving a bump on the head at work, Georgia goes in for some medical tests and is given some shocking news–she has developed some wacky-sounding terminal disease and only has about three weeks to live. After sinking into a brief depression, Georgia decides that now is the time for her to finally start living and, without telling anyone about her diagnosis, quits her job, cashes in her bonds and IRA and hops on the first direct flight from New Orleans to the fabulous Czech city of Karlovy Very, where one of her cooking idols, Chef Didier (Gerard Depardieu), is the head chef of the ultra-ritzy Grandhotel Pupp.

While there, Georgia and her newfound zest for life inspires most of the hotel staff–especially Didier, who is giddy that someone out there is genuinely appreciating his food–and raises the eyebrows of a group of fellow visitors, chief among them being Kragen (Timothy Hutton), the sleazy billionaire department store magnate whom Georgia used to work for. He is there wooing a couple of Congress members (Giancarlo Esposito and Michael Nouri) who, coincidentally, are the very same congressmen who just blew off a urban redevelopment meeting at Georgia’s church. While the congressmen and Ms. Burns (Alicia Witt), Kragen’s secretary/mistress, fall under the spell of Georgia’s plain-talking manner, Kragen divides his time between trying to discover who Georgia really is and getting himself into situations where he finds himself one-upped and humiliated by this stranger.

Even if you haven’t seen the original film before, you will no doubt be able to fill in most of the blanks regarding how the story turns out–if you can’t, the remarkably informative trailer gives away a lot as well. Of course, in a film like this, the details of the plot aren’t nearly as important as the message about Not Wasting Time and Living Life to the Fullest. Nice sentiments, but they would be much easier to swallow in a film that itself didn’t waste time and lived life, or at least its premise, to the fullest. Instead, we get by-the-numbers go-girl moments such as the scene where Georgia sticks up for the spa workers by telling off a snotty guest, an extended fashion montage designed solely to remind us of just how fabulous Queen Latifah (not necessarily her character) can be after spending half the movie in drab clothes and extended scenes of wacky slapstick, the weakest of which involves first-time snowboarder Georgia (or, to be more precise, Queen Latifah’s not-so-secret stunt double) careening down a mountain in a wild manner that leaves her looking like a champion. We have seen these elements in a hundred other movies and while they may be crowd-pleasing on some fundamental level, they feel like the kind of filler material that the writers might have stuck in as a place-holder until true inspiration kicked in.

Another problem is the simple fact that Queen Latifah herself doesn’t really bring any of her considerable personality to the party. You might think that a film centering on her would be tailor-made for her but the character of Georgia is so anonymous that she could have been played by virtually anyone–Latifah, Lara Flynn Boyle, even Alec Guinness himself–with only a couple of lines of dialogue requiring a rewrite. Of course, the screenplay itself goes into overdrive to sell us on her as a charming and compelling character but it takes it just a little too far–does every single person that she encounters, with the exception of two sleazo businessmen (and even one of them eventually turns around), have to instantly find her such a irresistibly charming, sexy and vibrant lifeforce. If we are supposed to buy the fact that she has been to shy to fall in love in the past, it might be a little more believable if every single man that she encountered in the course of the film wasn’t instantly smitten with her.

However, while I can’t really recommend “Last Holiday,” it does have enough good things going for it to prevent me from smacking it around too hard. Foodies will thrive on the extended sequences of gourmet cooking that are essentially high-class food porn. The European locales are never less than fabulous and picturesque–both Karlovy Very and the Grandhotel Pupp are real locales that many of you will probably idly look up on your favorite travel website as soon as you get home from the film. Perhaps realizing that they are basically hanging around Europe as the film’s B team, the supporting actors throw in light and entertaining performances–even Timothy Hutton redeems an otherwise shrill and annoying turn with a nicely controlled final scene on a snowy ledge.

The best of the bunch–the single most entertaining aspect of the film, in fact–is the hilarious turn by Gerard Depardieu as the master chef. Generally somewhat stiff and unconvincing in his previous English-language roles, he tears into this role with a enthusiasm that he hasn’t displayed in years. At one point int the film, he reveals that the main ingredient in one of his sumptuous creations is none other than a turnip–the point being that even the most unpalatable ingredient can soar in the right hands. What Depardieu does for “Last Holiday” is pretty much the same thing that his character does to those turnips–he takes something almost completely indigestible and while he isn’t quite able to transform it, he does manage to make it a little easier to swallow.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13734&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/13/06 16:04:43
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User Comments

8/04/14 Jamie loved the movie, but she should have ended up with the chef! A much more fun ending... 5 stars
6/12/08 PAUL SHORTT AT BEST ITS A BUMPY RIDE THROUGH PREDICTABLE TERRITORY 2 stars
11/30/06 Robin Morgan Queen latifah is the one i want and i want her in my life she is in my heart 5 stars
8/17/06 Stanley Thai A sweet movie. It'll make you feel good. 4 stars
5/20/06 Christine Wilbik Pretty good movie 4 stars
5/16/06 Breanne It was the best movie ever 5 stars
5/05/06 ES I enjoyed it, its a chick flick with heart, QL let's her guard down a little and it pays 4 stars
3/15/06 Jakob Tucker I loved it . . . it made me feel good . . . and that ain't bad! 5 stars
1/30/06 CD fucik this critics this sucked!! 1 stars
1/20/06 Me again Ridiculous to have two in-the-closet homos as romantic leads - Latifah & LL are gay! 1 stars
1/19/06 Tracie Smegelski How much longer do we have to be 'PC' & gush about how 'great' Latifah looks? Moo! 1 stars
1/17/06 "K" a Shween LaFatso "movie" -wonder how many lines will be racist against Whites?50?100? 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Jan-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-May-2006

UK
  03-Mar-2006

Australia
  25-May-2006




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