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'Simply' Resistible

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 5, 1999

  Movie Critic

Simply Irresistible
Sarah Michelle Gellar and Sean Patrick Flannery are bewitched in "Simply Irresistible." (20th Century Fox)

Mark Tarlov
Sarah Michelle Gellar;
Sean Patrick Flanery;
Patricia Clarkson;
Larry Gilliard Jr.;
Anthony Ruivivar
Running Time:
1 hour, 30 minutes
Contains sexual suggestiveness, mild obscenities and opportunities galore to leave
Did anybody at 20th Century Fox look at "Simply Irresistible" before they released it? Does anybody make quality judgments over there? And when will lawyers for "Like Water for Chocolate" rise up like a mighty tidal wave and pound the producers with lawsuits for straight-out plagiarism?

These were just a few of the questions ping-ponging around in my rapidly atrophying brain as this romantic comedy flickered torturously on.

Brace yourselves for another movie in which the rising, young, pretty stars of television – Sarah Michelle Gellar of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and Sean Patrick Flanery of "The Young Indiana Jones" – play mushy face in a third-rate love story. This is also a movie in which Gellar's wardrobe designer gets an upfront screen credit – along with the director, scriptwriter and other auteurs. So, if the story doesn't grab you, maybe Gellar's hemlines will.

In Manhattan, Amanda (Gellar) is about to lose her family-owned restaurant, the Southern Cross. The rent just went up, no one's coming to the place, and she lacks confidence in her cooking.

At the tonier end of town, Tom (Flanery), a slicko who ditches girlfriends after days of courtship, is under pressure to design an exclusive restaurant for the beautiful people.

He's a self-impressed, harried jerk. She's a sweet, trusting soul. Why, of course they should fall in love! Their attraction is helped along by – bear with me a minute – a mysterious gentleman in a white suit and hat, who magically recruits a live crab to stay in Amanda's kitchen for the rest of the movie, apparently orchestrating all the magical developments that follow. I would like to say right now, if I ever find myself again watching a movie that is crustacean-driven, I will walk out early.

Thanks to Cyrano de Crab, Amanda discovers she has the ability to induce emotions in the people who eat her food. They fall irresistibly in love with her pastries and fondues and so forth.

At one point, when she lets a tear fall into her sauce, the entire restaurant clientele is reduced to tears. I knew exactly how they felt. At any rate, Tom eats Amanda's emotive chow, falls in love with her cuisine and, before you can say "Check please," the lovebirds are dancing on the ceiling.

First-time director Mark Tarlov (a producer whose finest work may well be John Waters's "Pecker") and first-time screenwriter Judith Roberts (a former lawyer for Warner Communications) have a dismayingly formulaic view of enchantment. Magic is signified by levitating people aź la "Mary Poppins," playing wind-chimes on the soundtrack or flooding a scene with dry ice. Romance is just a matter of casting, and filling every available story transition with rock-lite songs. And wisdom – that philosophical nugget you're supposed to take home – is this: "The wind from one door slamming opens another." There are things I could say about wind and this movie, but my mom reads all my reviews.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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