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Recipe for Disaster (April 10/04)

Recipe for Disaster is a silly, low-budget made-for-TV movie aimed squarely at little kids, with little to keep adults entertained.

Patrick (John Larroquette) and Marie (Lesley Ann Warren) are preparing to open up their first restaurant, called Spokes (he's the head maitre 'd and she's the chef). It's opening night, and everything seems to be going smoothly - until the pair discover that a pivotal license has gone missing. After heading to City Hall to retrieve a new one, Patrick and Marie's children are left in charge. But unbeknownst to them, the restaurateurs next door clearly aren't fans of the whole free enterprise system and begin sabotaging Spokes' big opening (with the idea being to force them to close before the night is out).

Also thrown into the mix are food inspectors, child welfare agents, inept cops, and virtually every other staple of the kids-taking-charge genre. Screenwriter William Propp does a nice job of inserting the sort of hijinks that are required out of a movie like this, though it's plain to see that originality was never his goal. About the only element in the film that might appeal to viewers past puberty is Larroquette's performance, which is expectedly enjoyable. Though the script does him no favors, he nevertheless manages to inject a good amount of dry sarcasm into the majority of his lines; his comedic timing is, as it has been since his Night Court days, impeccable.

The supporting cast is agreeable enough (Margo Harshman, playing Patrick and Marie's daughter, is particularly charismatic), with only one exception: Bill Dawes, as competitor Blake Rathbone. In his desperation to come off as a Daniel Stern/Joe Pesci clone, Dawes winds up delivering a performance that feels like it'd be more at home in one of those live-action Saturday morning Disney productions (Lizzie McGuire excluded, of course). Strangely enough, a clumsy motorcycle cop is played by Marion Ramsey - the actress who portrayed Sgt. Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy movies (an odd bit of casting that just might make this worth a rent for die hard fans of that series).

With lowered expectations, Recipe for Disaster still won't make much of an impact. But as far as cheesy kids movies go, you could probably do worse.

out of

About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents Recipe for Disaster with a full-frame transfer, which is likely the correct aspect ratio (then again, maybe not; the film is preceded by that "formatted to fit this screen" warning). Extras include the film's trailer, along with several bonus trailers.