Are the universal languages of the world food and love?  They are in The Hundred-Foot Journey, a movie that mixes the delights of cooking with the breaking down of barriers.
As a young boy in India, Hassan has a love and appreciation for food.  Learning to cook from his mother, he became skilled at combining foods and spices into great combinations.  But when political uprisings led to an attack that destroyed the family restaurant and killed his mother, Hassan (Manish Dayal) and his family moved: first to England, and then (when the foods in England weren't flavorful enough) to France.  There, Papa (Om Puri) decides that they'll open an Indian restaurant for the locals, who don't like Indian food because they've never had it.
Unfortunately, the new restaurant is right across the street from the restaurant of Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), the proud and stubborn owner of a upscale French restaurant which has one coveted Michelin star -- and she wants two, then three.  Madame Mallory finds the new restaurant beneath her, and soon she and Papa are in a virtual duel, as they each interfere with the other's place of business (leading to numerous complaints to the poor mayor of the town).   And Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) is both a romantic interest of, and competitor for, Hassan: She helps the family out initially and gives Hassan books on French cooking, but she's a sous chef working for Madame Mallory.  What will Hassan do between his pushy father, condescending rival restaurant owner, and beautiful French woman?
The Hundred-Foot Journey is an enjoyable movie.  The film celebrates the preparation and consumption of food the way other films feature their sweeping landscapes and impressive special effects.  Manish Dayal makes the perfect leading man for this sort of film: He's both handsome and sweet, intelligent and humble, and talented while conflicted.  Om Puri and Helen Mirren are excellent together, providing comedy in their stubbornness while not letting the characters become one-dimensional or foolish.  The story is fairly predictable, and after some violence about halfway through much of the film's tension just vanishes.  But The Hundred-Foot Journey is a feel-good movie that is funny and truly revels in its culinary creations.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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