A little more than three years ago Variety‘s Michael Fleming reported that former bigtime auteur Lawrence Kasdan (Grand Canyon, The Big Chill, et. al.) was starting work (along with screenwriter Terri Minsky) on a U.S. remake of Sandra Nettlebeck‘s Mostly Martha for Castle Rock. There was moderate excitement about this since pretty much everyone with any taste was fairly taken with the ’01 German-made original. In June 2002, back in my Reel.com period, I ran a rave about Martha, calling it “a culinary Kramer vs. Kramer” about a female Hamburg chef with selfish tendencies (movingly played by Martina Gedeck) having to take care of her recently deceased sister’s young daughter — I also called it “the most succulent, sensually appetizing, food-trip movie since Big Night or even Babette’s Feast .” But Kasdan and Minsky, who wanted to set their film is some foodie city like New Orleans or San Francisco, ran into difficulty (I don’t know what kind) and their movie never happened. In May ’04, however, a moderately painful, obviously Martha-inspired confection called Raising Helen, directed by Garry Marshall and starring Kate Hudson and John Corbett, was released by Disney and wound up earning just under $40 million domestically. It had the same set-up (sister dies in car crash, selfish single professional woman suddenly has to take care of her kids, etc.) although Hudson’s Helen wasn’t a chef — she worked at a modelling agency. I thought that was the end of that saga, but no….there’s a second Mostly Martha knockoff currently rolling in Manhattan’s West Village, and this one is a little closer to the bone since it’s a resuscitation of the Castle Rock-Kasdan project. It’s being directed by Shine‘s Scott Hicks and stars the uber-capitalist, T-Mobile-hawking Catherine Zeta-Jones as the selfishly-inclined lead character (who this time is back to being a chef). The script is by Carol Fuchs, the boyfriend is being played by Aaron Eckhardt and the little orphaned girl is being played by Little Miss Sunshine‘s Abigail Breslin. CZJ’s character is called Martha but the IMDB is calling the movie an “Untitled Scott Hicks Film.” The IMDB chat boards about this film are hilarious — these are hardcore types, of course, but they all loved the original and despise the idea of a remake, they loathe CZJ and they all hope that it flops. I personally think it’s fine — Hicks is a pretty good director (putting aside the issue of Snow Falling on Cedars) and although the sweet European tone of Gettlebeck’s original Martha will almost certainly be lost, this Warner Bros. release may turn out okay. It’s just too bad that Kasdan’s version never happened (the IMDB says his next project is a Tom Hanks father-son relationship piece called The Risk Pool). And I think it’s unfortunate that the Gary Marshall-Kate Hudson version was made in the first place since it probably half-poisoned the well in terms of future audience interest. A fairly sizable crowd saw it, after all, and it’s probably safe to assume some of them will go, “Hey, isn’t this the same old thing?” when they start hearing about the Hicks version.