Food comedy that's full of soul

Food comedy that's full of soul

Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast (PG)

Comedy/144 minutes

Rating: 4/5

Don't watch this movie on an empty stomach, because you'll wish you had eaten before entering the cinema.

Zone Pro Site, which is Taiwanese comedy director Chen Yu-hsun's comeback film after a 16-year hiatus, is one yummilicious and entertaining ride that will make your mouth water.

Not only does Chen whip up a visual feast for the eyes - and taste buds - but he also manages to tickle the audience with the film's offbeat sense of humour, comical characters and cultural references.

The focus here is on a particular Taiwanese food culture called ban doh, or Taiwanese street banquets, where chefs are invited to cook.

Ban doh might be an unfamiliar concept here, but Chen manages to reach out to the audience with universal themes of food, love and heritage.

The plot revolves around Wan (Kimi Hsia), whose father was legendary masterchef Master Fly Spirit (Ko Yi-cheng).

Wan, who isn't interested in cooking, decides to try her luck at modelling in Taipei, but soon finds herself on the run over her boyfriend's huge debt.

She returns to Tainan where her mother, Ai-fong (Lin Mei-hsiu), is also in debt and struggling to cope with managing a small noodle stall.

One day, an elderly couple approaches them and requests a table of traditional ban doh dishes, for which the recipes have long gone missing. Enter Hai (Tony Yang), a self-proclaimed food doctor who helps them recreate some of the dishes.

Now, here's the highlight of the film. Chen manages to capture the colourful cooking scenes so beautifully, one can almost smell the food. Think omelettes, fried noodles, stuffed meat and deep-fried lotus roots. Yum.

Faced with debts, Wan and her mum decide to join a national ban doh competition, where they encounter another masterchef, Master Ghost Head (King Jieh-wen).

This is where the pace of the movie tapers off, compared to the first half of the film.

So much screen time is dedicated to the lead cast's struggle in re-creating certain dishes that it becomes tiresome to watch after a while.

Scenes from the ban doh competition tread predictably along the lines of Japanese manga and Stephen Chow-like exaggeration: Judges are blown to outer space over a delicious dish and an old man reminisces about puppy love over fried noodles.

Some scenes may be a tad cheesy but, boy, is this film full of soul.

Wan's recollection of her deceased father is touching and Hai's obsession with tomato omelettes is a reminder that food serves as an unspoken bond between loved ones.

With its huge cast and stylish cinematography, Zone Pro Site is a dazzling film that has a spirited dose of humour, a touch of soul and a mouth-watering spread of culinary delights that's bound to entice gourmands and cinephiles alike.

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