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Tortilla Soup (PG-13)
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Official Site
Director: Maria Ripoll
Producers: Samuel Goldwyn Jr., John Bard Manulis and Lulu Zezza
Written by: Ang Lee Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus, Ramon Menendez, Tom Musca, Vera Blasi
Cast: Hector Elizondo, Jacqueline Obradors, Tamara Mello, Elizabeth Pena, Raquel Welch
Rating: Reed Oliver - out of 5

As much as I enjoyed EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, I must confess I didn't really "get" Ang Lee's 1994 comedy of food and family. TORTILLA SOUP, Maria Ripoll's fantastic Mexican-American retelling of Lee's script, hits much closer to home and therefore is likely more enjoyable for the majority of the intended American audience. A Hispanic family living in Los Angeles is a lot easier to relate to than a traditional Chinese family in Taiwan. Now, taking this into account as well as Lee's enormous stateside popularity resulting from CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, it's no wonder that Goldwyn Films wanted to cash in on past critically acclaimed Lee projects and they certainly picked a good one.

The film centers around Martin (Elizondo), a chef and widowed father of three quite different daughters. Elizondo, whose best-known character is perhaps the fatherly hotel manager in PRETTY WOMAN, brings the same warmth and humor to his role in TORTILLA SOUP. He probably won't be nominated for any awards for this movie, but he should be. The other standout performance in the film is Pena's ultra-conservative and religious Leticia, Martin's oldest daughter. In everything I've seen her in (even from way back in the day with BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED), Pena has been excellent and this performance is no exception. Watch out for her scenes with beau Paul Rodriguez-they are simultaneously hilarious and touching.

Almost stealing the show away from the actors though, is the food. Martin's dishes are prepared lovingly and masterfully and the camera catches every mouth-watering angle, leaving the audience drooling and wanting to find the nearest taqueria. If you like Mexican food, the cooking sequences alone are enough to make this film worth seeing. If Ripoll's film direction doesn't pan out, she should look for a job at the Food Network.

But aside from the good performances and savory food sequences, TORTILLA SOUP is an honest look at family relationships and family traditions and how the two interact. Every family has its quirks and it's exactly these little pastimes and events that make each family different and special. For the Naranjos of TORTILLA SOUP, a huge and elaborate Sunday dinner brings them together each week to talk with and about each other and try to work out the difficulties of being a family.

As good as, if not better than the original Taiwanese version, TORTILLA SOUP is a film that celebrates and tempts all the senses and leaves them satisfied. Bring a family member and remind yourselves that there is no problem so big that a good meal and good conversation can't fix it.

Renae Bolen

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

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