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What's Cooking? Reviews

Four very different Los Angeles families prepare for Thanksgiving in this comedy-drama about family holiday agita spiced up with culture clashes, generation gaps and lifestyle conflicts. The African-American Williamses are in the midst of a crisis — Ronald (Dennis Haysbert) has cheated on his wife Audrey (Alfre Woodard) and is feuding with their only son (Eric K. George); Audrey is trying to hold things together despite her mother-in-law's (Ann Weldon) meddling. Latina Elizabeth Avila (Mercedes Ruehl), by contrast, has left her philandering husband (Victor Rivers) and found a new boyfriend (A Martinez). If only her son (Douglas Spain) hadn't invited dad to Thanksgiving dinner. Pretty, personable Rachel Seelig (Kyra Sedgwick) is the apple of her Jewish parents' (Lainie Kazan, Maury Chaykin) eyes. But they'd be so much happier if her longtime lover were named Carl rather than Carla (Julianna Margulies). The Nguyens, first-generation Vietnamese immigrants, see America as a land of opportunity, but parents Trinh and Duc (Joan Chen, Francois Chau) worry that their children are adopting bad American habits. Son Jimmy (Will Yun Lee) says he's too busy with college to come home — though, in fact, he's spending the holiday with his girlfriend, Gina Avila (Isidra Vega). Daughter Jenny (Kristy Wu) is dating a white boy, and younger son Gary (Jimmy Pham) is in trouble at school. That director and co-writer Gurinder Chadha transforms this sitcom material into a lively and charming film about the melting pot at full boil probably owes something to the fact that her own multicultural bona fides are firmly in order. Born in Kenya and raised in England, Chadha, who's of Indian descent, relocated to Los Angeles when she married Japanese-American screenwriter Paul Mayeda Berges. Chadha and Berges developed their cheerful, accessible screenplay at the Sundance Writers Lab, and it opened the 2000 Sundance Film Festival.