Tortilla Soup may have one of the most peculiar pedigrees of just about any film going: a largely Latino team—cast, writers and director—making a film a 2001 Hollywood based on Ang Lee’s 1994 Eat Drink Man Woman. The results may not be quite on a par with Lee’s film, but neither are they anything to sneer at. The film is a pleasant look at a first class chef (Hector Elizondo), who is adapting to the fact that he can no longer smell or taste (someone else has to judge his work for him) and the fact that his daughters are grown up and leaving home. In some cases, the process of the daughter moving on seems a little overdue. At the same time, he has to fend off the advances of a marriage-minded sexy widow (played with surprisingly comic timing by Raquel Welch).
That’s all there is to it, and nothing particularly surprising happens (the movie even continues to prove that Paul Rodriguez can’t really act), but it’s a work of no little charm. And sometimes charm is enough, but there’s something more here—the presence of the wonderful Hector Elizondo in a lead role. Seeing this terrific character actor actually star in a movie is enough by itself to make it worthwhile. It’s also a refreshing change to see a movie with Latin characters set in Los Angeles where the central issue isn’t poverty. Great filmmaking? No, but it’s warmly enjoyable and a pleasant way to spend an evening.