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Simply Irresistible

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Simply Irresistible

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean Patrick Flanery
Director: Mark Tarlov
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 93 Minutes
Release Date: February 1999
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Dylan Baker, Patricia Clarkson, Christopher Durang, Larry Gilliard Jr., Betty Buckley, Amanda Peet, Anthony Ruivivar

Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

They say that the way to a person's heart is through his or her stomach, so one would think that before _Simply_Irresistible_, a food-centered romance would have hit the big screen...

...oh, I forgot--_Like_Water_for_Chocolate_ got there first.

Then allow me to rephrase: one would think that one would come up with a romance that was not only food-centered, but a fantasy where the besotted chef's emotions magically manifest themselves in her cooking...

...oh, I forgot--_Like_Water_for_Chocolate_ covered that, too.

That leaves writer Judith Roberts and director Mark Tarlov with nary a fresh idea between them, and stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and Sean Patrick Flanery with nothing fresh to work with. The latter fact is especially a shame, for Flanery and the luminous Gellar are wonderfully matched as, respectively, wealthy department store manager Tom Bartlett and the young woman he eventually falls for, a mediocre chef at a struggling New York restaurant named Amanda Shelton. The two Meet Cute at a street food market, where a mysterious stranger sells Amanda a basket of crabs, one of which is magical (!) and pinches Tom's leg. Forcing a meeting between Amanda and Tom is just the first trick up the crab's sleeve, for he turns Amanda into a master chef, winning the hearts of many, not least of all being the commitment-phobic Tom's, with her divine culinary masterpieces.

This setup plays about as dreadful as it sounds, with only the appeal and chemistry of Gellar and Flanery keeping it watchable. But around the midpoint, with the appearance of the object of its original title--_Vanilla_Fog_--_Simply_Irresistible_ starts to develop some low-key charm. At this juncture, Tarlov and Roberts appear to realize that the mere presence of magic does not a magical film make. As exhibited in Alfonso Arau's absolutely enchanting 1993 film _Like_Water_for_Chocolate_, fantasy elements must be firmly rooted in the characters and story in order to really work, and once the fog appears and lifts, the emphasis is placed less on the magic than the characters, and as such that element feels more like a necessary part of the story and not an arbitrary gimmick.

Even so, it's too little too late--the damage caused by the unpromising opening and the annoying plot device of the crab (which, like the stranger who sells it to Amanda, is never explained) is done, and the effectiveness of _Simply_Irresistible_'s latter half merely serves as a glimpse of what might have been had the filmmakers been more focused. As such, this murky and ultimately bland effort lives up to that former title--_Vanilla_Fog_, indeed.

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