It’s a set-up more sugary than a bag of Hollywood donuts: uptight, no-nonsense chef Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) runs her Manhattan restaurant’s kitchen with an iron fist until her sister dies in an off-camera car crash and makes Kate the guardian of her adorable nine year-old Zoe (Abigail Breslin). When juggling child care and culinary duties proves a handful for Kate, her boss hires her a new assistant, the handsome and carefree Nick (Aaron Eckhart). He’s Kate’s opposite in every way, and if you can’t see where this is heading you just might need glasses.
Before you start groaning, rest assured that Australian director Scott Hicks (Shine) fights a constant battle against the sappy sentiment that runs through this film’s script like thick treacle. More often than not he succeeds. Kate thankfully doesn't become a magic mommy overnight, and for the most part Zoe remains a little girl grieving for her dead mother. Having a cast way better than the lines they’re required to say also improves things greatly, and all three main cast members bring a lot more to their characters than they strictly require. Don’t see this on an empty stomach: the food alone earns it an extra half-star.