Simply Irresistible [1999]

Call it Buffy the Culinary Slayer. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who usually runs around staking vampires and fighting demons, turns cute and cuddly as an aspiring chef in this magical-realist comedy that borrows a page--heck, whole chapters--from Like Water for Chocolate. Out at the market one day, Gellar stumbles on both a magical crab and the babelicious Sean Patrick Flanery who, wouldn't you know it, is opening up a posh restaurant at Bendel's department store (actually, the two have been brought together by fairy godfather Christopher Durang). Odd and implausible circumstances give these two cuties more opportunities to moon at each other, and suddenly Gellar's cooking takes off--turns out all her nicey-nice feelings towards Flanery are going into her cooking, with the help of that quiet but powerful little crab. Gellar's almost-closed restaurant starts to thrive, and her desserts begin making everyone horny. A cute premise that never really takes off, Simply Irresistible glides along on Gellar's charisma alone; in her off hours, Buffy certainly can be the lighthearted girl next door, and Gellar works to give some depth to her one-dimensional character. Flanery, though, while appealing at times, plays up his character's commitment-phobia to irritating degrees. Chock full of fairy-tale elements that never really come together (is that crab really necessary?), Irresistible does boast charming performances by Patricia Clarkson and Dylan Baker as Flanery's secretary and boss, respectively. However, it's a little odd to see these two, who scored raves for two serious and harrowing art-house flicks (Clarkson in High Art, Baker in Happiness) doing the light-and-fluffy romantic comedy thing. They're two of the very few ingredients that occasionally make this soufflé of a movie rise; at the end, however, it's flat as a pancake. --Mark Englehart

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