In this by-the-recipe remake of 2001's German chocolate cake Mostly Martha, Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Kate, a top chef in New York City who rules her kitchen with a cast-iron fist. She wants to be alone, so, of course, her perfectly unencumbered existence is thrown into chaos with the death of her sister, who has willed to Kate her perfectly precocious 9-year-old niece Zoe, played by Abigail Breslin. At first, naturally, theirs is an uneasy relationship—relative stranger living with relative stranger, neither of whom wants the other around. Then Kate decides to start taking Zoe to the restaurant—where she discovers in her sacred space a new chef named Nick, played by Aaron Eckhart, whose tousled bangs hang so low you're amazed he can see what he's cooking. The guy's so sweet it's astounding he isn't shot in soft focus; Nick won't take Kate's gig, despite their boss' desires, only everything else she's got—her heart and the kid too. The cynic would like to write this off as empty grown-up hooey, Baby Boom without an ounce of bang. But you can't do it because the thing's so charming and frothy and delightful and sentimental and beautifully shot and well-acted and sincere that it takes a good, long while before you start craving real nourishment, and during this disheartening season of overheated air-conditioned diversions, that passes for an unparalleled feat of artistic achievement.
Zeta-Jones resists aging, succumbs to sugar.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., July 27. Rated PG. 104 minutes.