If you’re looking for a light-hearted flick that’s easy to watch, then Chef is the film for you, but unfortunately this predictable fairytale just didn’t work for me. The concept and the cast had so much potential and it was incredibly disappointing when the magic I expected failed to happen.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Jon Favreau is a quadruple threat in his latest film Chef in which he holds the credits of director, writer, producer and lead actor. The film follows talented, professional chef Carl Casper who is struggling for creative freedom in an LA restaurant owned by the small-minded Riva (Dustin Hoffman). When his 10-year-old son Percy (Emjay Anthony) introduces him to social media in order to help him fight a particularly cruel review of his food, Carl ends up in an all-out, online war that eventually leaves him disgraced and without a job. With very few options, Carl reluctantly agrees to the idea by his ex wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) that he should start a food truck, and fortunately his former colleague Martin (John Leguizamo) lends him a hand. During the process of setting up the food truck Carl is given the opportunity to reconnect with his son Percy who he has unintentionally neglected as a result of being so consumed by his work. Scarlett Johannson and Robert Downey Jr have cameo appearances in the film, and Bobby Cannvale and Oliver Platt also feature in supporting roles.
On paper this concept is unique and endearing, but unfortunately when portrayed on the screen this film fell completely flat, and at times even dragged. It’s nearly 2 hours long when really 90 minutes would have been more than enough to tell this story. I think a lack of content is part of the problem. There is not enough conflict in the narrative to sustain a feature film. This possibly could have been offset by lots of comedic moments, which the trailer indicates the film will contain, but unfortunately there just weren’t enough of these.
I guess for food enthusiasts the many, long montages of food would have been exciting, and although I was curious to see what Carl was making at times, I have started eating more healthy and organic foods of late, so I couldn’t help thinking that everything he made was really fatty and was a little nauseated.
The film spends a lot of time on the relationship between Carl and Percy, and whilst both actors seem appropriately cast (I mean, Jon Favreau did write the part for himself) and both do a decent job with their respective characters, their relationship just wasn’t engaging to me.
I have to say a “hallelujah” for John Leguizamo as he really helped lift the film at points when it was starting to drag. His energy and his natural performance / comfort in this role is fantastic to watch and most of the comedy in the film comes from him as well as Bobby Cannavale, who unfortunately doesn’t get a lot of screen time. The best scene in the entire film, however, is Robert Downey Jr’s small appearance in the film, which is both bizarre and hilarious (without giving too much away!), but it’s kind of disappointing to walk away from a low-budget, semi-independent film and find the cameo from the most famous person to be the most memorable.
The women in this film are completely lackluster, which is extremely surprising and excruciating for me to admit as I absolutely adore and admire Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson, but honestly, it was a snooze fest in almost every scene in which these women featured.
One thing I did like about the film was the music. There were lots of fabulous latin-inspired tracks during the many travelling and/or cooking montages that made me want to get up and dance. I also loved Sofia Vergara’s character’s house. That Spanish style of mansion is certainly the sort of place I would like to live in one day!
Overall, the film is very light-hearted and easy to watch. It’s a predictable, fairy-tale from start to finish and you will certainly walk away from this film feeling uplifted, if nothing else. Maybe it’s just not my cup of tea. There was a mature woman sitting behind me in the cinema who cackled shrilly at almost every vaguely humorous moment, so clearly some people found it enjoyable. I suppose I am being quite harsh. There were definitely some fun scenes here and there, but I just was hoping for so much more. The concept and the cast had so much potential and it kills me to see this film fall so far from what it could have been.
Images courtesy of Sony Pictures