No Reservations

I already wrote about “No Reservations,” sort of, in my review of “Lucky You,” where I noted that both films seemed to be the type where some activity or profession is used as a Metaphor for Life.

Before “Lucky You” began, I saw a trailer for a film called “No Reservations,” which looks to be the same type of movie. “No Reservations” is about a chef whose personal life is in disarray, so the movie’s tagline is “Sometimes life isn’t made to order.” Then the chef says, “I wish there was a cookbook for life,” and her friend says, “It’s the recipes you create yourself that are the best.”

GET IT?! Cooking is a metaphor for LIFE!

Despite being based only on the trailer, that preliminary dismissal of “No Reservations” turns out to be more or less accurate. (One correction: The “friend” is actually her therapist.) The cooking-represents-life metaphors aren’t overplayed, but the film as a whole is generically pleasant and completely forgettable. Minor conflicts arise in the story at the regularly scheduled intervals, and they are dealt with speedily. There’s nothing to dislike about the movie, but there’s nothing to like, either. Watching it would have the exact same impact on you as not watching it.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is typecast as a cold, unpersonable New York chef named Kate. She rules the kitchen at the fashionable 22 Bleecker (that’s the name of the restaurant) with a firm hand, bristling at the slightest criticism and unwaveringly confident in her culinary brilliance. Her boss (Patricia Clarkson) has urged her to see a therapist (Bob Balaban) about her unyielding rigidness, which seems to have extended into her personal life, too. She tells the shrink that her last relationship ended because, after two years, the guy wanted them to move in together, and she didn’t see any reason to give up her apartment.

Naturally, when you meet a movie character as unbending as Kate, you know she’s about to have her life turned upside-down. Boy howdy, ain’t that always the way? And sure enough, fate gives her the ol’ one-two punch: First she becomes the caretaker of her newly orphaned niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin), and then she butts heads with the restaurant’s new sous chef, Nick (Aaron Eckhart), who — wouldn’t you know it! — is as freewheeling and loosy-goosy as Kate is buttoned-down!

Young Zoe is forlorn over the death of her mother, and goodness knows Kate doesn’t exactly have a light, merry way with children. After one bad babysitting incident, Kate decides the only possible option is to take Zoe to the restaurant with her every night, where she meets Nick, who helps bring her out of her shell, which is a relief to Kate even though Kate is still trying to be mad at Nick for … well, for not being as stuffy as her, I guess.

If you predict a romance between Kate and Nick, then I suspect this is not the first movie you’ve ever seen!

It’s based on a German film called “Mostly Martha” and directed by Scott Hicks (“Shine,” “Hearts in Atlantis”), who manages to present the entire story without ever making us care about its dramatic stakes. Zoe is sad? Eh, she gets over it pretty fast. There’s competition between Kate and Nick? Meh, that blows over before you know it. The film is wholly unremarkable: not particularly funny, not really very interesting, yet not what you’d call “bad,” either. It the kind of movie that will be shown on TNT in a couple years, and when you’re flipping channels you’ll stop and watch it until the next commercial break, at which point you’ll flip away and only come back if there’s nothing else on.

C (1 hr., 45 min.; PG, very mild grown-up themes, a tiny bit of mild profanity.)