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Tortilla Soup

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Tortilla Soup

Starring: Hector Elizondo, Elizabeth Pena
Director: Maria Ripoll
Rated: R
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: August 2001
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Julio Oscar Mechoso, Constance Marie, Marisabel Garci, Raquel Welch, Jacqueline Obradors, Nikolai Kinski, Tamara Mello

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Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

María Ripoll's TORTILLA SOUP wastes no time in getting to the star of the show, the food. In the opening credits, the father, like a Samurai, furiously slices and dices the wonderfully colorful cuisine.

Inspired by Ang Lee's EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, the story has been moved to L.A. and the ethnic cuisine switched to Mexican. A chef, Martin Naranjo (Hector Elizondo), who has lost his ability to taste and smell, lives with his three grown daughters, school teacher Leticia (Elizabeth Peña), young executive Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors) and soon-to-be college student Maribel (Tamara Mello). The center of their life is the dinner table at which eating is regularly interrupted by one of them saying, "I have an announcement." This inevitably sets off another sweet squabble.

The dialog is uniformly cute. Typical is the interchange between Maribel and her father when she drops the bombshell that she's thinking of postponing college. He asks politely but firmly why she is considering the change. "I want to find myself," she replies. "Well, you won't have to look far," he tells her with a fatherly blend of sarcasm and concern.

When they're not feasting (their meals for four look like royal banquets for twelve), the women bicker with each other. They also love each other, and one of the loveliest episodes has them in the kitchen, breaking dishes and singing. The casting of the four leads is terrific, and they're so close that you'd swear that they were related in real life. Every family should have such a loving foundation.

There's not much wrong with this carefully prepared confection. Raquel Welch, as the father's new girlfriend, can't keep up with the others' acting abilities. A more substantial problem is Xavier Pérez Grobet's grainy cinematography. The sumptuous food deserves a better presentation. But you'll forget the flaws. You'll leave happy and hungry.

TORTILLA SOUP runs a bit long at 1:40. It is rated PG-13 for "sexual content" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.

Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes

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