TODAY'S SPECIAL Cheerful in outline and yet prone to maudlin bulges in its middle, Today's Special stars Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi as Samir, a sous-chef on the make in New York City. A second-generation immigrant with parents safely stowed in Queens, Samir has been toiling in the city's elite kitchens, looking to catch a break between plating pea purees and buttering up the boss (Dean Winters). Director David Kaplan (Year of the Fish) brings a light, assured rhythm to the early scenes of Samir at work, where a new hire (Jess Weixler) gets his attention and the pressure to move on (and up) is palpable. When an upstart is promoted over him — Samir's cooking apparently lacks imagination — and his father (Harish Patel) has a heart attack, the dream of apprenticing in Paris devolves into managing the broke-ass family restaurant. If Samir's resistance to Indian cuisine is vaguely sourced, his avoidance of his parents is too well understood: Both are walking malapropisms without a kind word for their unmarried, un–medical-degreed son. Mandvi (who co-wrote the script with Jonathan Bines) does well as the straight man, but his journey to identity (chaperoned by a magical cabbie/world-class chef played by Naseeruddin Shah) strays too far into tacky ethnic farce. (Michelle Orange) (Citywide)
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