Cheerful in outline and yet prone to maudlin bulges in its middle, Today's Special stars Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi as Samir, a sous-chef on the make in New York City. A second-generation immigrant with parents safely stowed in Queens, Samir has been toiling in the city's elite kitchens, looking to catch a break between plating pea purées and buttering up the boss (Dean Winters). Director David Kaplan (Year of the Fish) brings a light, assured rhythm to the early scenes of Samir at work, in which a new hire (Jess Weixler) gets his attention and the pressure to move on (and up) is palpable. When an upstart is promoted over him—Samir's cooking apparently lacks imagination—and his father (Harish Patel) has a heart attack, the dream of apprenticing in Paris devolves into managing the broke-ass family restaurant. If Samir's resistance to Indian cuisine is vaguely sourced, his avoidance of his parents is too well understood: Both are walking malapropisms without a kind word for their unmarried, un-medical-degreed son. Mandvi (who co-wrote the script with Jonathan Bines) does well as the straight man, but his journey to identity (chaperoned by a magical cabbie/world-class chef played by Naseeruddin Shah) strays too far into tacky ethnic farce.
Mandviin the kitchen.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., Nov. 19. Not rated. 99 minutes.