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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey

December 1st, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The Hundred-Foot Journey came out in August and was counter-programming, to be generous. It opened in barely more than 2,000 theaters and only managed fourth place during its opening weekend. On the other hand, its multiplier was 4.94, which is incredible compared to the average wide release, while it ended up a solid midlevel hit. Obviously the word-of-mouth was strong, but now that it is on the home market, will those who missed it in theaters want to check it out? And will those who saw it in theaters want to pick it up?

The Movie

We first meed Hassan Kadam in voice-over as the story bounces back-and-forth through time. We see him as a child in India, trying to emigrate to Europe, back to India, etc. His family owned a restaurant and he learned to cook from his Mama. One day, there was a contentious election and the winner came to their restaurant to celebrate. Unfortunately, an angry mob decided to attack and burn the restaurant down and his mother died in the attack. After that, his Papa decided to leave India and first moved to the U.K., but their new home wasn't right for a restaurant, so they decided to try their luck in France.

Their luck doesn't change much in France, as the brakes on the van fail while on a hilly road. After nearly crashing, the family is rescued by Marguerite, who takes the family to her home. She even feeds them and the family is amazed that she made it all herself. Not only does she bake her own bread, but the olive oil is from the olives on her property, the cheese is from the milk from her cows, etc. They have to stay the night, because the van won't be repaired till the morning. However, Papa sneaks out early in the morning to check out a property that they saw that was for sale. Hassan follows him and while the two check out the restaurant, they are interrupted by Madame Mallory, who runs the restaurant across the street. Papa mentions he wants to buy the restaurant, but when Mallory implies he's too poor to buy it, he's absolutely determined to buy it, even over the objections of his own family.

As the Kadam family prepares the restaurant for their big opening, Hassan bumps into Marguerite at the local market. The pair seem to get along great, despite the fact that Marguerite works for Madame Mallory. She even helps Hassan learn French cuisine by giving him a few books on the subject. On the other hand, some of the other chefs at Mallory's restaurant are not as kind. Jean-Pierre is seen making cruel remarks and Madame Mallory goes so far as to buy all the fresh ingredients to try and ruin the restaurant's opening night. It doesn't work, but it does escalate the war between them.

How the war plays out enters too deeply into spoiler territory, so we will stop the plot summary there.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is, for the most part, a very good movie. I don't want to sound negative, but there are two main problems with the movie. Firstly, there are some strong tonal shifts in the movie that are hard to take. For much of the movie, there is a lighthearted tone. Even the "war" between Papa and Madame Mallory begins in a fun way, but it goes dark really suddenly. It changes from a simple business rivalry to a racist conflict where firebombs are thrown. It's jarring. The other main issue I have is the lack of innovation. (I'm using that word, because it becomes important in the plot.) There's not a lot new here. You could probably guess the major plot points just from the description on the back of the Blu-ray box. Fortunately, the cast is able to take this familiar material and help lift it and the end result is a good movie, but not a great movie. It should come as no surprise that Helen Mirren is fantastic in this film. Om Puri is not as well known here, but he has more than 200 acting credits in his nearly 40-year career and that acting experience helps here. Additionally, both Charlotte Le Bon and Manish Dayal have a lot of charm and great chemistry together. It is not a groundbreaking movie, but it is an enjoyable one.

Actually, there's one more problem with this movie. A lot of the film deals with food porn. There are a lot of shots of people preparing and enjoying food. The best food porn will make you hungry, even if you've just eaten. However... this food porn aspect of the movie begins with a young Hassan enjoying the taste of raw sea urchin. ... I had sea urchin and it was possibly the worst thing I've ever tasted. The characters are all treating this as if it is the greatest taste and meanwhile I'm gagging.

The Extras

Extras begin with a 12-minute look at bringing the book to the big screen, but a lot of it is just chatting between Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. There is also a 16-minute making of featurette. There is a four-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with Oprah. Finally, there is a five-minute featurette on making coconut chicken. Now I'm really hungry.

The technical presentation is good, but not great. The film is a dialog-driven drama, so there's not a lot of visual flash to brag about. In fact, nearly every aspect of the video quality is great, but not top notch. It is in that weird zone where there's nothing to complain about, but also nothing to really praise. Likewise, there are no complaints to be had about the audio, but also nothing to praise. At least the dialog is very clear, but the audio is not showy.

The Blu-ray costs $23, which is $5 or 28% more than the DVD. That's a fair price to pay.

The Verdict

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a good movie that benefits from an excellent cast, but never becomes truly great. There are enough extras on the DVD and Blu-ray to be worth picking up, but it isn't a Pick of the Week contender.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Juhi Chawla, Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Clement Sibony, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Manish Dayal, Rohan Chand, Charlotte Le Bon