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Tortilla Soup

In general, Hollywood's remakes and "re-imaginings" seem to (deservedly) earn raised eyebrows from both critics and audiences — Gus Van Sant's Psycho, Sydney Pollack's Sabrina, and Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes all spring to mind. Thankfully, Maria Ripoll's Tortilla Soup — a Mexican-flavored reworking of Ang Lee's 1994 hit Eat Drink Man Woman — is one of the exceptions to the rule. The warm-hearted, well-fed family comedy successfully picks up Eat's plot about a retired Chinese chef and his three feisty, independent-minded daughters and plunks it down in Los Angeles. Hector Elizondo stars as Martin Naranjo, a widower who, despite the fact that years of cooking spicy food have left him with limited senses of taste and smell, creates fabulous, traditional Mexican meals for his three girls every Sunday night. The trio includes uptight, religious chemistry teacher Leticia (Elizabeth Pena), career-focused MBA Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors), and free-spirited teenager Maribel (Tamara Mello, who looks more than a little like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's older sister). All three live at home — despite their longing for interesting, fulfilling lives of their own — and all three both count on and resent their strong family ties. Rebellion strikes in various forms (love, self-reflection, second guesses), but through thick and thin, their father's feasts hold them together. The cast is uniformly strong; Elizondo is a stand-out as the stoic, soft-hearted Naranjo patriarch, Pena and Obradors tackle their roles enthusiastically, and Raquel Welch is charming as flighty, flirtatious widow Hortensia, who unabashedly sets her cap for the eligible Martin. The plot suffers slightly from predictability (though there's a great twist at the end), and Ripoll allows one too many clichés to creep in — all of Martin's walls are bright, festive hues, and the sisters burst into a feel-good bonding song not once but twice — but in the end Tortilla Soup is as fresh and satisfying as one of Martin's gourmet meals. (Just make sure to allot time for a burrito run after you're done watching — if this movie doesn't make you crave Mexican food, nothing will.) With its intimate subject matter, Tortilla Soup is a natural for DVD. The scenes, rich with color and detail, are crisp and sharp in both the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer and the full-screen version of the film. Columbia TriStar's double-sided disc offers Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in both Spanish and English, as well as Spanish and English subtitles. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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