In an early scene in Last Holiday, star Queen Latifah prepares a delicious-looking meal, taking care to make it to the exact specifications laid out by her cooking hero, Emeril Lagasse. When she's done, she feeds it to her young neighbor, packs up the rest for his family, and settles in for a nice Lean Cuisine dinner. Symbolic? You bet! So's the way she prepares a scrapbook labeled "Possibilities," filled with wedding pictures with her head pasted next to that of hunky LL Cool J, a co-worker at the New Orleans department store where she works. She stares at him each day. He stares back. But nothing happens.
Then, one day, Latifah is diagnosed with a dread disease not covered by her company's health plan, and the rules change. Deciding to blow her savings, she takes off for a fancy retreat near Prague to live life to the fullest. Many shenanigans apparently intended to be comic ensue, including an encounter with the department store's assholish CEO (Timothy Hutton) and a friendship with Gérard Depardieu, a world-famous chef smitten with Latifah's newfound willingness to consume carbs.
Directed by Wayne Wang (formerly a stamp of quality, or at least artistic aspirations), Last Holiday remakes a relatively obscure 1950 Alec Guinness comedy. And with a lead as deft as Guinness, it might still work. But, here at least, Latifah has only two modes: heavily constipated and sass-tastic. She's pleasant enough, but not so pleasant as to make makeover montages and scenes of base-jumping go down any easier, particularly when they just seem to be filling time until the film hits its big revelation about her illness. (Hint: It's a comedy, not a tragedy.) For a film ostensibly about how life means nothing without adventure and unpredictability, Last Holiday all feels as preordained as the film-ending Emeril cameo. Oops. Spoiler.