"So over-the-top boisterous that I initially misinterpreted its gleeful disdain for conventional niceties as mere ineptitude," writes Mike D'Angelo at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, "this is a two-chord Ramones album of a movie with infectious high spirits and no use for subtlety; once I finally surrendered to its goofy charm (which took nearly half an hour, so conditioned was I by Akin's fairly somber previous film, The Edge of Heaven), it became one of those rare cinema experiences that's more akin to a party than a movie."
"Akin's new one, concerning a young man's desperate attempts to keep his roadside restaurant open and thriving amidst many setbacks, is overstuffed, more than a little too pleased with itself, yet often winning," writes Michael Koresky at indieWIRE. :As far as European comedies go, it's fairly by the numbers, assembling a motley crew of emphatically crazy characters for a rollicking jamboree of wily folks meant to stand in for the New Europe. But the tonic goes down easy this time, even as the plot grows increasingly merciless in its need to entertain its audience."
"It's neither the work of transcendence that The Edge of Heaven was nor the emotional Vesuvius that was Head On," writes the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "In fact, some of this new movie is pretty bad, but it has more true joy, passion, and youth on a scene-by-scene basis than any film I've seen here [in Toronto] so far."
"Clearly made as a change of pace after Heaven, the pic is labeled by Akin 'an audacious, dirty Heimat film,'" notes Derek Elley in Variety, where Nick Holdsworth reports on the press conference. "But for him, a Heimat film isn't Bavarian blondes in dirndls; this is northern, grungy, multikulti Germany, with Greeks, Turks, rock bands and drifters."
Guy Lodge at In Contention: "Revolving haphazardly around the romantic and professional misadventures of hapless restaurant owner Zinos (real-life restaurateur and co-writer Adam Bousdoukos) in urban Hamburg, the film runs on the food/life/love metaphors you've seen in other gastronomically-inclined films, though the broad tone and slight characterizations here put this more in line with Mostly Martha than Big Night."
"Tonally, there are some wobbles: the pre-redemption gloom spikes the comedy bubble for a while," writes Lee Marshall in Screen. "But things pick up in the fizzy finale, and the soul-and-funk-backed set pieces - particularly an aphrodisiac party - are infectious."
Updates, 9/17: "Sometimes 'broad' has its advantages," writes Noel Murray. "Fatih Akin's rollicking, beat-crazy foodie comedy Soul Kitchen traffics in outsized characters and predictable plot turns, and yet it's one of the most purely entertaining movies I've seen at this festival." Adds the AV Club's Scott Tobias: "As of this writing, the film still hadn't found a distributor, which tells you something about the timidity of the market right now; if you can't make a hit out of this thing, give it up."
"With a soundtrack of vintage soul and contemporary techno that sounds like a mix from one friend to another, Akin's Soul Kitchen shows him to be not only one of the current world cinema scene's most energized and exciting filmmakers but also one who possesses a versatility of style," blogs Mark Olsen for the Los Angeles Times. "Though it can often seem they are mutually exclusive, sometimes films can be smart and fun at the same time."
"Akin's camera-in-heat keeps slamming, always rushing to cram in one more canted angle, one more musical cue, one more smackdown between squabbling characters," blogs Fernando F Croce at Slant. "Still, it's something of a relief to see Edge of Heaven's we-are-the-world solemnity giving way to gags about massage-room boners and aphrodisiac-laced desserts."
Online viewing tip. Cineuropa talks with Akin.
Update, 9/20: Kurt Halfyard at Twitch: "Part foodie extravaganza, part sit-com, part feel good dramedy (and even a bit of toe tapping due to its Motown soundtrack), Soul Kitchen hits the spot in a five-star kind of way."
Update, 9/22: Nicolas Rapold for the L Magazine: "It's entertaining enough, albeit embarrassing when it's not, but it appealingly never bows under the class and culture friction at the core of its conflicts."