(Image via impawards.com)
(Image via impawards.com)

Ah, the cheesy late-’90s rom-com. There are few things I enjoy more, especially when they’ve got a wacky twist like today’s film, 1999’s Simply Irresistible. The film was directed by Mark Tarlov and written by Judith Roberts.

My mom picked up this film in a bargain bin at the grocery store and after one viewing decided that it was too weird for her to watch again so, naturally, she gave it to me! I hadn’t even heard of it before and stopped myself from looking up any information about it before viewing so I’d be surprised. And that “surprise” ended up being one of the corniest films I’ve watched so far for this series.

Simply Irresistible tells a story we’ve become quite familiar with, of food bringing people together and helping them form loooove connections. The big difference here is that the magic spark does not come from the food itself, but from the work of a magical crab that casts spells on the food.

Amanda Shelton (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has inherited a restaurant from her mother, who was a fantastic chef. Amanda unfortunately didn’t inherit her mother’s talents, and the restaurant is on the brink of financial ruin.

Fate may intervene before Amanda’s restaurant is forced to close, though. While at the farmer’s market one morning, she’s approached by a strange man bearing a basket of live crabs. “Take my crabs, Amanda,” he exclaims at her. “YOUR MOTHER WANTS YOU TO START LIVING UP TO YOUR POTENTIAL!”

Quickly after this strange encounter (in which Amanda, for some reason, agrees to buy the basket of crabs), one of the little creatures escapes and runs away, attaching itself to the pant leg of a mysterious stranger (Sean Patrick Flanery). The stranger turns out to be wealthy department store exec Tom Bartlett.

Amanda and Tom have another chance encounter with each other, at which point one of the crabs from the basket begins working its magic on them. The sneaky lil’ crustacean, who has managed to escape being cooked, ruins Tom’s relationship with his current girlfriend and causes Tom and Amanda to fall in love with each other, all with the help of the food Amanda is suddenly amazing at cooking (thanks to even more crab magic).

There is so much corn in this film. So, so much corn! Much of it comes from the writing. Some highlights:

  • “Lunch is sort of over… forever,” Amanda laments as she ponders the closing of her restaurant.
  • Homicidally angry Amanda smashing a chicken breast with a tenderizing mallet because a man she knows nothing about and has only met once has a girlfriend
  • Tom’s girlfriend’s outburst in Amanda’s restaurant, while Tom sits by, oblivious, having a religious experience with his food:

    (Screen captures by Lindsey for TMP)
  • The sous-chef is a grown man who likes to play with dolls…
  • Magic smoke filling first the kitchen and then the entire restaurant when Amanda makes dessert for Tom. Totally not breaking any health or safety codes.
  • Tom practically tackling his assistant (Patricia Clarkson) over a box of eclairs… which he had already stolen from an elderly woman:

    (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
  • Dramatic fight scene after Tom and Amanda float to the ceiling, so in love that gravity has no effect on them. (The floating scene is actually one of a few Fred Astaire references used in the film!)
  • Everyone in the restaurant crying after eating food that one of Amanda’s tears fell into as she was cooking. Everyone who eats her food feels her emotions!

In addition to all of the corn that’s written into the script, there’s an A+ cornballin’ soundtrack and very cheesy delivery by the cast. Patricia Clarkson is the film’s strongest asset, delivering most of the film’s truly funny (not corny-funny) quips.

Simply Irresistible is kind of like a live-action Ratatouille, with a magical crab instead of a hair-tugging rodent, and with the crab playing a much smaller role than said rodent. It is quite a whimsical film in the cheesiest of ways, and a highly enjoyable watch for those of us who are into ultra-sugary romantic comedies. This one gets a perfect Corny Cliff Scale Score of 5/5!