If you want to make sure a movie’s feel-good, The Hundred-Foot Journey carries a Triple Crown pedigree: produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, plus direction from Lasse Hallström, who’s walking familiar ground here after 2000’s Chocolat, which also featured an ambitious woman, a family with big dreams, romance and tables groaning with food bound to bring everybody closer together. It’s the sort of film that guarantees a happy ending just by existing, with even the trailer rushing to assure you that all manner of things will be well.
It’s a package, to be sure, albeit one that’s been beautifully polished. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren applies the same sun-drenched affection to the French countryside and a bowl of curry, and composer A. R. Rahman offers a score that carries echoes of his beautiful work in Jodhaa Akbar. Indian film legend Om Puri delivers understated wryness in his performance as patriarch Papa Kadam, and Manish Dayal is effortlessly charming as family chef Hassan, whose palate brings him to the attention of Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). The rest of the Kadam family maintains a sweet energy that manages to stay on the right side of cloying, a line also walked by Charlotte Le Bon as preternaturally sweet sous-chef Marguerite, whose flirtation with Hassan feels natural, even framed by the rest of the movie’s predictable artifice.
It’s all part of the film’s determinedly pleasant outlook; even its treatment of racism is approached as just another standoffish neighbor who just needs one good meal to cast all their doubt aside. That sort of well-meaning sheparding prevents The Hundred-Foot Journey from earning much real emotion from viewers, which seems awkward in a film single-mindedly geared towards warming the heart by any means necessary. Still, those needing a sweet finish will find it here.