Light-hearted in its approach, 'No Reservations' takes the heat of a good chef's kitchen and spills it over into a family lacking in warmth, resulting in a film that is very watchable, even if it is a little uninventive.
Chef Kate (Zeta-Jones) is married to her job. Lacking in social skills and hopeless at relationships, she relishes the control she has over her kitchen, the one place where she knows she is the best. Her only distractions from work are attending her work-imposed counselling sessions with a wacky therapist (Balahan) and fending off the attentions of her Irish neighbour Sean (O'Byrne), who hopelessly flirts with her night, noon and morning.
But when Kate's sister and niece are involved in a car accident, while on their way to visit her, everything about her life changes. She is the only relative who is left to care for young Zoe (Breslin) and to say she is not the maternal type would be a serious understatement. She cooks gourmet meals for the youngster, leaves her home alone and completely fails to grasp the concept of fun.
To make matters worse, Paula (Clarkson), the uptight owner of the restaurant where she works, has decided to hire another chef to work alongside Kate and, although Nick (Eckhart) heaps a sickly level of praise on his new colleague, all is not well in the kitchen. But even the frostiest ice queen can be thawed and the charmingly affectionate Nick could be just the man to work his way into both Kate and Zoe's hearts... but not without a few hiccups along the way.
Both Zeta-Jones and Eckhart are more than comfortable in their roles but it is the wonderfully talented Abigail Breslin who steals the show once again. The 'Little Miss Sunshine' star is a joy to watch on screen, really getting into her character and selling a child's confusion and sadness to us in the most convincing way.
Some elements of this movie work better than others. The comic moments between Kate and the customers are great but the plotline with her Irish neighbour seems surplus to requirements. That said, this is the sort of film that, despite its minor flaws, you could happily enjoy on a Sunday afternoon, without exercising your brain too much, and you need to watch a movie like that every so often.