Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chef (2014) [R] ****

A film review by Lou Lumenick, New York Post, May 7, 2014.

Actor-director Jon Favreau, who has served up his share of bland summer blockbusters since breaking out with Swingers 18 years ago, returns to his indie roots with the succulent low-budget amuse-bouche Chef.

He’s great as a celebrity chef who’s forced to re-examine his priorities in this extremely funny and big-hearted comedy that Favreau also wrote.

It has lots of smart things to say about social media, criticism and father-son relationships — while also appealing to fans of food porn and mildly raunchy buddy movies.

Chef Carl Casper’s decision to abandon his hugely successful but unadventurous menu for something livelier leads to confrontation with his Los Angeles restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman).

Even worse, the naive Carl stumbles into a Twitter war and YouTube meltdown with a celebrated food blogger (Oliver Platt).

Unemployed and with no prospects except an offer from TV’s Hell’s Kitchen, Carl mounts a comeback in a run-down food truck donated by the ex-husband (Robert Downey Jr. in a hilarious one-scene cameo) of his ex-wife (SofĂ­a Vergara).

She sees the truck’s rehabilitation as an opportunity for Carl to spend quality time with their 11-year-old son (the appealing Emjay Anthony), whom he’s long neglected.

Also along for the road trip from Miami to LA — by way of New Orleans and Austin — is Carl’s former line cook at the restaurant, played by the frequently misused John Leguizamo in his best role in years. (Bobby Cannavale, also very good, inherits Carl’s job back in L.A.).

Favreau juggles the film’s disparate comic elements as deftly as Carl serves up Cubano sandwiches and barbecue delicacies — even as his son expertly works Twitter and Facebook to turn Dad into a viral sensation.

Some scenes and speeches go on a tad too long, and Scarlett Johansson has far more screen time than really necessary in a largely expository role as a sommelier who disappears halfway through the movie.

But I think audiences will join me in indulging Favreau for such a purely entertaining comedy, the best movie about food since Ratatouille.

Be prepared to eat up a storm afterward. The food here is that appetizing.
[Lumenick’s rating: *** out of 4]

Labels: comedy, food

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