Even though "No Reservations" might pass foodie muster in Food Network Nation, no amount of hollandaise sauce can kick up this oxygen-starved comedy built around a boring, poker-faced turn by the lead, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Kate, her character, is the temperamental chef at the tony 22 Bleecker restaurant in Greenwich Village. But she's living a life out of balance. That's why the owner (Patricia Clarkson, given nothing to play) has sent Kate to a shrink (Bob Balaban, cast a bit too on the nose).

Kate can lose herself in reveries over food. It's people and men she has troubles with.

Then the cook is forced to take custody of her late sister's child, played with little spirit by "Little Miss Sunshine" herself, Abigail Breslin. Kate can't get the little girl to eat, not even fish sticks.

Thank heavens for Aaron Eckhart. The mop-topped charmer with the perma-stubble waltzes in as a sous chef hired to fill in. Eckhart gets to play vibrant, happy-go-lucky yin to Kate's steely yang. He cons the kid into eating (spaghetti, naturally) and breathes life into Kate, 22 Bleecker and this morose, overdesigned movie.

They've sucked a lot of the life out of "Mostly Martha," which won't be that much of a bother to the never-reads-subtitles set who didn't see the German original on which "No Reservations" is based. What will strike pretty much any moviegoer is how sterile this feels. Scott Hicks, who once made the earthy "Shine," was more intent on giving us a fall-in-New-York travelogue than a movie with spark. Even the little-girl weepie stuff is drained of emotion. For a romantic comedy, this is sorely lacking in the witty banter department.

"No Reservations" H½ Poor Rated: PG (some sensuality and language) Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin Directed by: Scott Hicks Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes Playing at: AMCG, DEST, FISH, HUDV, LYCE, PALIS, SHOW