Review: Chef – Deliciously entertaining
Are you ready for Jon Favreau’s 2014 summer blockbuster? Before you prematurely fire off a repulsor ray, I’m talking about Chef (not the latest Iron Man flick, or even Iron Chef), a film that is nearly as entertaining as the director’s big superhero hits, but is twice as delicious.
Favreau not only produced and directed his latest effort, he also wrote it and stars in it, together with his old Iron Man pals Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson (who both have relatively small, but fun and meaningful roles.) In fact, this movie has one of the best ensemble casts so far this year.
Carl Casper (Favreau) is a chef who had early success in his career; a critical darling who was identified as being a food revolutionary. But now, years later, he’s stuck in a job where his boss, Riva (Dustin Hoffman), won’t let him change his menu, and a famous food blogger, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), takes pleasure in rubbing the chef’s uninspired efforts into his face.
To make matters worse, Carl is divorced from a woman he still loves, Inez (Sofía Vergara), and estranged from his young son, Percy (Emjay Anthony). After receiving a terrible review and inadvertently starting a social media war with Ramsey Michel (social media actually plays a significant role in this film), Carl quits his job and decides to start a food truck, El Jefe, that specializes in Cuban cuisine.
After joining up with his best friend, Martin (John Leguizamo), and Percy, the three spend the summer driving El Jefe across country as Carl once again falls in love with cooking and strengthens his ties with his son.
I did not expect such a serious and heartwarming tale to come from Favreau, but I was pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful and real this film came across. The story could have easily veered into a Robin Williams style farce, but Favreau maintains a disciplined hand throughout and focuses on the relationships of his characters instead of comedy hijinks – although there are plenty of laughs.
I highly recommend that you go to this film on a full stomach, as the food preparation sequences will have you drooling. I can’t wait to get my hands on a good grilled cheese sandwich after watching the gooey culinary masterpiece that Favreau creates in this movie. It’s definitely the most delicious looking cheese sandwich ever seen on the big screen.
I’m not a cook, not by a long shot, but I was seriously impressed by the character of Carl and his attention to detail while preparing his meals, treating each component as a work of art. I don’t know if Favreau cooks or not, but this film certainly convinced me that he is capable.
The acting all around in this movie is fantastic and brings Favreau’s smart script brilliantly to life. The relationship between Carl and Percy plays a big part in this film and it was completely believable and on target; kudos to the young actor, Emjay Anthony, and to Favreau. Chef also has Leguizamo’s best played role in years, and both Hoffman and Johansson are excellent in their small parts. The sultry Sofía Vergara is also very good playing against type in a somewhat serious part as Percy’s Mom.
This film also has some great Latin music in it and is an overall outstanding and thoroughly entertaining movie. My one very minor complaint is a “Six-Months Later” style cop-out at the end (a gimmick that I hate in almost any film), but outside of that misstep this is a great movie and a potentially huge summer sleeper hit. Grade: 8/10
Photos © 2014 Open Road Films