Mistress of Spices (Paul Mayeda Berges). 92 minutes. Opens Friday (July 28). For venues and times, see Movies, page 107. Rating: N
The people behind Bend It Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice have long been trying to bridge the divide between Western and Eastern traditions, so it's no surprise that their latest effort features Hollywood's latest hot genre: the superhero film.
Meet Tilo (Aishwarya Rai, Bollywood star and former Miss World), aka Superbeauty, who has the power to see the future and use her talent with healing spices to help others, but only if she never lets her own desires get in the way of duty.
Because this is a woman's story, she doesn't get much of a choice in the way of temptation. Never allowed to leave her store, she's forced to fall for the first brooding hunk she meets (Dylan McDermott), because even clairvoyant women can be blinded by lust, especially if they've never been privy to the bland talent and unintended comedy of McDermott's wooden, one-expression film and TV reel.
So now the superhero dilemma: save the world or find her own joy?
Rai is a goddess, and the film is beautifully shot, but the movie is as ridiculous as the giant phallic red chili peppers the director (Paul Mayeda Berges, in a disastrous debut) keeps flashing ominously on the screen. Aiming for the magic of Like Water For Chocolate, Berges never even achieves the schmaltzy charm of Chocolat.
There are no spices in Tilo's store for kinder reviews.