Starring: Julianna Margulies, Alfre Woodard, Joan Chen, Mercedes Ruehl, Lainie Kazan, Will Yun Lee, Kristy Wu, Douglas Spain, Dennis Haysbert, Ann Weldon, Kyra Sedgwick, Estelle Harris, Maury Chaykin, Victor Rivers, & A. Martinez
Audience: Teenagers & adults
Runtime: 106 minutes
Distributor: Lions Gate Films
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Producer: Jeffrey Taylor
Address Comments To:Tom Ortenburg & Mark Urman, Co-Presidents
Lions Gate Releasing
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 966-4670
Fax: (212) 966-2544
The story takes place during one Thanksgiving Day, where four families in Los Angeles have each gathered a bunch of relatives and friends to celebrate God’s bounty. One of the families is Hispanic American, one is Vietnamese American, one is African American, and one is Jewish American. Unknown to the Vietnamese family, the daughter of the Hispanic matriarch, Lizzy Avila, is dating their college-age son, Jimmy, who’s decided to spend Thanksgiving with his girlfriend while lying to his own family that he’s too busy studying to come home. Meanwhile, the mother of the African-American family, Audrey Williams, is having a hard time dealing with her mother-in-law, who keeps asking her why her college-age grandson, Michael, may not be coming to Thanksgiving. Herb and Ruth Seeling are also having problems in their family – their only daughter has brought home her live-in lesbian lover.
Complicating this elaborate story is the fact that Jimmy’s sister, Jenny, who feels like her parents don’t appreciate her as much as they do their three sons, finds out that the middle brother has hidden his friend’s gun under his bed. Also, Mrs. Avila, whose husband abandoned the family for her cousin, has invited her new boyfriend, Daniel, for desert, so she can introduce him to her family for the first time. Her estranged husband, Javier, suddenly shows up, however, because he didn’t get a message not to come from Mrs. Avila’s son. Much to her chagrin, the son had invited the father when he accidentally discovered that the affair with her cousin had ended.
More family secrets are revealed during the course of this story, leading to some dramatic moments. Jenny’s problem of what to do about the gun in her brother’s bedroom also comes to a head. It leads to a final disturbance that reveals an interesting hidden fact about all four families.
There are definitely too many characters in WHAT’S COOKING, which leads to confusion during the first part of the movie. The filmmakers finally manage, however, to take control of their movie, which is laced with many humorous moments regarding family get-togethers during Thanksgiving, which, besides the Fourth of July, is the quintessential American holiday. Many viewers will recognize a good deal of these funny moments in their own lives, as well as some of the more dramatic moments.
Another positive aspect of the movie is that it includes some moral, redemptive elements. For example, all of the families pray to God before they eat their family Thanksgiving meal, although their prayers have a nominal, vaguely syncretistic manner about them. Prayers to God that don’t come from a committed biblical worldview or that don’t have the appearance of honestly asking God to reveal Himself in some manner to a sincere seeker of Truth and Goodness are ineffectual. Also in the movie, the relationship between Mrs. Williams and her husband, Ronald, reveals some important themes having to do with forgiveness and redemption. Their relationship is the exact reverse of Lizzy Avila and Javier’s. That relationship shows the need for moral judgment when someone fails to repent of their sins and do the right thing.
These positive elements are undercut by the movie’s romantic worldview, plus plenty of foul language. This worldview favors a politically-correct view of America. Thus, WHAT’S COOKING seems to support a radical left-wing multiculturalism. Such an ideology tries to turn so-called “minority groups” into angry, self-righteous victims rather than functioning citizens of society who work together to achieve biblical goals set down for all people by God Himself in His Word. This radical view of America is most clearly seen in the movie’s anti-biblical, non-judgmental view of the homosexual behavior between the Jewish daughter, Rachel, and her lesbian lover, Carla. Although the Bible tells us to take a gentle, kindly approach to teaching and correcting all sinners, it also tells us to be firm about God’s clear moral standards. The movie’s politically-correct ideology also can be seen in a political argument between Ronald and his son, Michael, who’s definitely more liberal than his father. Ronald has invited his white, center-right, middle-class friends to the dinner, and they take Ronald’s side in the argument. This scene, which is supported by a couple other brief snatches of dialogue elsewhere, may lead many viewers to believe the left-wing multiculturalist, Marxist lie that only white people, especially middle-class and well-to-do white people, can be racists. It and the rest of the movie suggests that, if you disagree with this kind of radical multiculturalism, you’re an intolerant bigot.
In the end, WHAT’S COOKING? suggests that Americans should freely and wholeheartedly welcome every minority culture in the world to their families and neighborhoods, including the homosexual sub-culture, even if that culture practices behavior that clearly violates the Word of God. Such an attitude actually makes a mockery of God’s Absolute Justice and Goodness. It dilutes the true cleansing power of God’s perfect Love, the Love which redeems us from sin and which can be seen most fully in the redemptive ministry of Jesus Christ, His apostles and His Church. As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:6, such love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the Truth.
There are definitely too many characters in WHAT’S COOKING, which leads to confusion during the first part of the movie. The filmmakers finally manage, however, to take control of their movie, which has many humorous bits. Although WHAT’S COOKING? has some moral, redemptive moments, these positive elements are undercut by the movie’s romantic, pro-homosexual worldview. This worldview favors a politically-correct view of America. Thus, WHAT’S COOKING seems to support a radical left-wing multiculturalism. Such an ideology tries to turn so-called “minority groups” into angry, self-righteous victims rather than functioning citizens of society who work together to achieve biblical goals set down for us by God Himself in His Word