What's Cookin'?
Entertainment: +3
Acceptability: -2

Four middle-class families, from different ethnic backgrounds, separately prepare to enjoy a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast with family and friends. The Nguyens (Joan Chen and Will Yun Lee) are Vietnamese, the Williams (Alfre Woodard and Dennis Haysbert) are African-American, the Avilas are Latinos and the Seelings are Jewish. But alas, as the turkeys bake, troubles simmer. They come to a boil, spilling over and making a mess of the joyous occasion. Rachel Seeling (Kyra Sedgwick) brings Carla (Julianna Marguilies), her lesbian partner, hoping to win acceptance from her very traditional Jewish family. Elizabeth Avila (Mercedes Ruehl) is anxious to introduce her boyfriend to the family, but her married son invites Elizabeth's estranged husband to dinner. Audrey and Ronald Williams try to hide their family, and marital, problems from his observant mother-in-law. The Nguyens are devastated when they discover condoms in their teenage daughter's coat pocket. But then learn their teenage son is involved in an even more dangerous situation. A surprise ending unites these four, seemingly unconnected families. WHAT'S COOKIN' is a well-done smorgasbord celebrating contrasts and similarities in good ol' American families.

Rachel and Carla's lesbian relationship is presented as "warm and fuzzy," as they snuggle in bed, kissing and caressing. Rachel's parents clearly love their daughter, but disapprove of her lifestyle. That attitude seemingly flip-flops when Rachel announces she is pregnant, making Mom and Dad fear they might lose a daughter and a grandchild. Elizabeth Avila's college-age daughter showers with her boy friend, and Elizabeth is shown in bed with her lover. She justifies that adulterous affair because her husband had an affair with her cousin. Angry outbursts in the Williams family eventually lead to forgiveness and reconciliation. And the Nguyens learn that that they can trust their children after all. A life-threatening incident and an off-screen gunshot are crucial to the story, but 11 obscenities are an included option. WHAT'S COOKIN' serves up generous helpings of food for thought along with the turkey. But no matter how prevalent homosexuality, adultery, and foul language are in our society, watching women kiss and caress, explicit sexual behavior, and listening to obscenities spoil the appetite.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Distributor: Lions Gate Films, 2 Bloor Street West, Suite 1901, Toronto, ON M4W 3E2, Canada

Crude Language: Few (4) times - Mild 1, Moderate 3
Obscene Language: Many (11) times - F-word 1, s-word 6, other 4
Profanity: Few (2) times - Exclamatory (OG 1, OMG 1)
Violence: Few times - Moderate (gang threatens teenager, boy hides gun in bedroom, 4-year-old brandishes loaded gun, teen dumps paint on mayor)
Sexual Intercourse: Implied once (unmarried couple in bedroom scene)
Nudity: Once (brief rear male as man leaves shower); Near nudity - Once (girl wrapped in towel)
Homosexual Conduct: Several times (lesbian couple kiss and caress/ in bed)
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: College students kiss passionately/ shower together, high school girl has condoms
Drug Abuse: Man gets drunk, wine and beer drinking
Other: Themes of forgiveness, importance of harmony in family; respect for ethnic/ racial/ lifestyle differences
Running Time: 106 minutes
Intended Audience: Teenagers and adults

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