Review by Jack Foley
JAMES Hacking’s directorial debut could so easily have become a complete hell’s kitchen as opposed to a Love’s Kitchen given some of the dodgy ingredients.
But while it’s by no means great, his film has a vaguely endearing quality about it that just about prevents it from getting a complete critical stuffing.
Whether it would better be served up as a TV movie or even a sitcom, though, remains a valid question.
Dougray Scott heads the cast as a once promising chef who goes into decline following the death of his wife in a car crash. Encouraged by concerned friend Gordon Ramsay (playing himself badly) to turn his life back around, he swiftly buys a village pub and sets about creating English culinary delights that start to put him back on the map, as well as setting up the possibility of a new romance with, of all things, a food critic in hiding (Scott’s real-life wife Claire Forlani).
Contrived and clichéd to the point of distraction, Love’s Kitchen nevertheless ambles along in amiable fashion thanks to the charisma of its central cast.
Scott and Forlani have chemistry (which is hardly surprising), while Lee Boardman and Michelle Ryan have fun in supporting roles as another couple who clearly belong together.
Simon Callow also camps it up to OTT effect as a food critic with a penchant for wine, while Peter Bowles is comically mis-cast as a former rock manager who provides the village opposition.
Only Ramsay (curiously restrained and over earnest) and Simon Hepworth – of the main performers – really strike horribly dud notes, while the stereotypical yokels are as one dimensional and predictable as you can imagine for what they’re asked to do.
Hacking’s direction could also use a little more flavour and struggles to escape s sit-com feel, while his script (and particularly the humour) often feels stagey and forced (and lacking canned laughter).
But if you can put some of the more grating moments aside, then Love’s Kitchen has its heart in the right place, even if it’s delivery is uninspired. It’s the type of well meaning trifle that Sunday afternoons with a hangover are made for.
Running time: 93mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: July 11, 2011