Tortilla Soup (2001)

Genres - Comedy Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama, Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life  |   Release Date - Aug 24, 2001 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 103 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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As far as cuisine-infused comic pictures go, this one falls between the magical whimsy of Like Water for Chocolate and the silly, one-note What's Cooking, but fails to make a solid case for the existence of yet another one. Maria Ripoli's romantic farce has its moments and has a sweet ardor, but the material never rises above sitcom complacency and the presentation of delectable food doesn't suffice for meaty storytelling. The film thankfully contains two of the most charismatic and underused actors in modern cinema, who help immeasurably in bringing it some much-needed credibility. Hector Elizondo lends his paterfamilias a blessedly real urgency, and like all of his memorable performances, never overstates his character to trump up a scene; he is always a reassuring presence. Elizabeth Peña has a less desirable character to portray, but is equally effective, using simple gestures to convey her repressed teacher's inner desires. If only the movie rang as true, it might have been more than yet another onscreen food orgy where nothing that surrounds it is as interesting.