MOVIE REVIEW- Some reservations: Chick flick makes grown men cry

After seeing No Reservations I had to go home and watch the Lifetime Channel to get some masculinity in my life, in hopes my chest hair would grow back. Yes, it's that much of a "chick flick."

It's also formulaic– or, since it's a cooking movie, perhaps it's more appropriate to say it follows a recipe. Director Scott Hicks (Shine and the less successful Hearts in Atlantis and Snow Falling on Cedars) follows that recipe to the letter, step by predictable step, adding the necessary garnishes; but the result has a packaged taste, not the sort of gourmet dish that would come out of Kate Armstrong's (Catherine Zeta-Jones) kitchen.

Only the heroine's name and city of residence have been changed from the German film, Mostly Martha, of which this is a remake. They were probably afraid she'd be confused with Martha Stewart if they kept her German name, because the two women have a lot in common.

Kate is the chef at 22 Bleecker, Patricia Clarkson's tony Manhattan restaurant where the kitchen is as big as the dining area but can be photographed to make it look claustrophobic. Kate doesn't have control issues– she just wants things to be done exactly right, i.e., her way.

She prefers not to mingle with the customers because she doesn't take compliments or insults well. Her boss has her seeing a therapist (Bob Balaban), which doesn't do anything for Kate, but she fixes him some great food while she's there.

Any man in the audience can tell you what Kate needs, which is why men won't be admitted to this movie without passing a sensitivity test at the door. Some women will tell you she needs a child to take care of. Since No Reservations is aimed at a broad audience, Kate gets both.

Her sister dies, leaving an orphaned daughter, Zoe (Abigail Breslin of Little Miss Sunshine) in Kate's custody. They don't have as hard a time adjusting to each other as you'd expect, because this isn't a movie about more than surface problems.

While Kate takes a day off to mourn her sister and move Zoe in, a sous chef becomes available and is hired to assist her. Of course she resents Nick Palmer (Aaron Eckhart), but the staff of Kate's efficient but joyless kitchen loves him. It's like having their drill sergeant replaced by a camp counselor.

Besides missing her mother, Zoe's only problem is that she won't eat anything Kate prepares; but she loves Nick's cooking and starts trying to push them into becoming a family. Considering that her well ordered life has been doubly disrupted, Kate deals with things rather well.

The first babysitter she hires for Zoe is a chain-smoking Goth punkette, but flirtatious neighbor Brian F. O'Byrne recommends the best sitter in New York, and she happens to be available whenever she's needed. (Yeah, that'll happen.) Since Kate is practically perfect in every way, it's only right that she should have Mary Poppins sub for her.

No Reservations is one of those movies where the actors cry on cue so you don't have to. If your eyes don't water your mouth may, watching all the images of lovingly prepared lobster, quail, etc. Theater owners will be hard-pressed to translate this into an appetite for nachos and popcorn at the concession stand, so they'd better hope you load up before the movie starts.