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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25.93%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 22.22%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 9 user ratings

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What's Cooking?
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by Greg Muskewitz

"It's gourmet."
5 stars

A totally random and diverse gourmet salad, Gurinder Chada's "What's Cooking?" is a delightful, succulent little Thanksgiving treat. If nothing less, this charmer recharts the roving nautiousness of "Woman on Top" just a few months ago, and affirms, that like Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman," you can have a revolving story that is connected through the food, all the while displaying the food deliciously.

KFC won't be able to handle this cultural gathering of African-American, Vietnamese, Jewish, and Hispanic families in the LA-area during their festive and deserved dysfunctional spirits. (Actually, KFC does substitute for one family as a last minute resort.) Each respective family and set of friends have one major complication that is highlighted and outlined from the rest, requiring that cynosure to be resolved along the way before the holiday can be rightfully enjoyed.

The African-Americans: Grandmother visits son and daughter-in-law and is unhappy that her grandson won't be attending. ("You think communication through those e-mails holds a family together?")

The Vietnamese: Parents fear loss of respect from over-Americanization of children especially when they find a condom in their teen daughter's pocket. ("They give them out at school.") But what she finds in her brother's room is much worse.

The Jewish: The parents of a grown up lesbian worry if it was something they did wrong, while she just wants her parents to understand that she's happy.

The Hispanics: A son wants his father to come over for Thanksgiving dinner even though he walked out on the family. But the mother has moved on and doesn't want a repeat. Her daughter is dating the eldest boy from the Vietnamese family.

"What's Cooking?" starts off as a gleaming present waiting to be ripped open, and when it is, it reveals that each of these groups of people must deal with their own periodic troubles and family emergencies before it gets too messy near the end, and cleans itself back up into a tidy package. Like a self-cleaning oven. Chadha administers a gentle formula to each group (young and old, male and female, hetero and homo, human and animal alike) and as it structurally weaves, by the end its enjoyably knitted itself to a more-than-satisfactory denouncement (all without the use of a dishwasher). I felt that it semi-spoofed several stereotypical characteristics (mac-n-cheese, gothic vegan, the nosh, etc.) but avoided turning them into clichés.

One of the best ingredients of "What's Cooking?" is its cast --a broad and diverse group. Proven vets and faves included here are Alfre Woodard, Joan Chen, Maury Chaykin, and Kyra Sedgwick, while up-and-comer (but TV vet) Julianna Marguiles is also very cute and good. (Only the latter being the important factor, of course.) There are plenty of other good performances by lesser knowns (Will Yun Lee) and some knowns (Mercedes Ruehl), but three younger actresses in particular caught my interest (in order): Isidra Vega, Mariam Parris, and Kristy Wu. All three are virtually fledged neophytes, but each are nicely carved and well-infused. The three give me something else to look forward to down the line in future projects.

The most important factor in this food-sub-genreated film is the food, and thankfully, it's never neglected (take notes "Woman on Top," "Simply Irresistible," and all you other slacker, wanna-be food movies). The food looks great and so do those around it. "What's Cooking?" is a delectable treat, so dig in and share it!

Playing exclusively in San Diego at Landmark's Hillcrest.

Final Verdict: A-.

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originally posted: 11/21/00 09:59:44
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User Comments

2/26/17 Reena Randomly watched it one day and LOVED IT 5 stars
11/15/15 jamie Just loved this movie,funny,charming, perceptive,great cast 5 stars
1/04/09 Samantha Pruitt very good sentimental holiday movie, very nice message! 5 stars
8/23/02 Phil M. Aficionado A little masterpiece with a big robust cast and slice of life realism. Cool. 5 stars
12/20/01 Amy good view of life from many perceptives. 5 stars
9/11/01 Jake Entertaining but editing sucks. Too long and whats with the cheesy song at the end? 4 stars
8/05/01 Brubie Cringingly familiar family stories. Loved it 5 stars
12/15/00 Andy I went thinking my wife would like it we both loved it 5 stars
11/23/00 Heather Very funny movie, well worth looking up! Perceptive look at families. 5 stars
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  17-Nov-2000 (PG-13)



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