Chef (2014)

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Jon Favreau concocts a charming and funny road trip styled film of food and father/son bonding if not at times going over usual tropes of distanced relationships coming good. The movie is mouth watering and feel good in huge doses, there’s no half measures where this story is concerned and it does the job of planting a smile across the audience’s face, or at least mine.

This movie begins with the night of a restaurant critic coming to taste Chef Carl Casper’s (Jon Favreau) food. He wishes to try and dish up something different and fresh but his boss tells him to stick to his greatest hits and this brings about a harsh onslaught of Casper’s cooking, leaving the cook to venture onto social networking grounds and make a name for himself, even if it was unintended. The story of him trying to find himself as the chef he wants to be blends in with him trying to be a better father to his son. They bond over fixing up a truck to take on the road and sell the Cuban food of Carl’s desire. From there it’s pretty predictable servings but boy is it ever tasty and rewarding material to sink your teeth (eyes) into.

You can tell that it’s like a glorious pet project of Favreau’s to get up and running and I’m glad it got Aldamisa Entertainment helping fund and produce the picture because it deserves the big screen treatment. Favreau writes, acts, produces and directs this heartwarming tale but don’t be fooled there’s still a healthy pouring of adult oriented comedy to feast upon and it hits the mark the majority of the time. The course itself may be an idea of family strains getting softer over bonding that feels overly familiar but it isn’t too much hard work to look over this overused story tool and enjoy the movie progress.

Honestly, don’t go in too hungry because it will make your stomach groan and your eyes widen. The close up shots of differing ingredients being chopped, fried, peeled and cooked in general are mouth watering to see on the huge cinema screen and it truly makes you want to go out and get some proper tasty Cuban sandwiches down your throat. The chef culinary skills look great and Favreau sells it that he’s an established chef with masteries of food. In fact all the cast involved in the kitchen must have already got the knack or got training because they sell it that they belong in the kitchen. The meals and snacks are shot so beautifully and generously to remain in keeping with Casper’s love of food and somehow normal restaurant food like caviar or chocolate molten lava cake is made to look bad after we’ve seen the wonder of what Chef Carl Casper can rustle up.

The social networking angle is fun and for now works in being up to date with the influence of Vine and twitter. The son Percy is a huge benefit to the success of Casper and his ending compilation of videos is extremely sweet. A lot of the humour does come from Casper’s lack of grasp with the usage of networking sites. The on screen visuals of tweets being read or written are a funky little touch and the chittering bird flying away gives the film a neat look. More than this the twitterverse becomes a tool of putting the chef out there and bringing him and his son closer. The moment of Casper believing he’s private messaging on twitter to the restaurant critic when he’s not really is priceless and hilarious.

The film is funnier than I expected it to be and like the knives used by Carl it feels very sharp at times with fun takes on the modern world. It’s an enjoyable humour that comes with the spirited nature of this movie and nearly every character gets a moment where they provide some comedy, a lot of this does lie with Downey Jr and Leguizamo. The heart of course centres on the son and Casper’s ex wife Inez (Sofia Vergara). It’s a good story in seeing how the main character wants to tackle the issue of his own integrity and how he can gain respect in the food community and with his own child. The road trip section helps pave the way for the needed gluing together of son and dad and through the sunshiney landscapes of changing US states that bond becomes more strong.

Jon Favreau portrays the chef with great gusto and you utterly buy into his role as the man wanting to be better than Dustin Hoffman’s boss will let him be. He has passion and heart and when he’s happy you’re happy though that word is used a lot in the film as if trying to capture the way he wants us all to feel and to make us all remember the name of his role in the ‘Iron Man’ films. Robert Downey Jr. may not have a huge slice of the movie appearance pie but he takes a lot of the laughs when he does rock up. Sofia Vergara doesn’t have that much to do as the smiling ex wife who only wants what’s best for son and ex husband. Scarlett Johansson gets the role of sexy possible distraction for Casper but does good and too wants what’s best for Casper. John Leguizamo is one of the better elements and is funny and spot on as the loyal side chef with passion rivalling Casper’s. Bobby Cannavale is also funny as some sort of double act with Leguizamo and it’s a shame he doesn’t feature a tad more.

I can see that the story may be obvious and that a lot of it is watching Favreau cook and chop away but it’s charming and nearly filled to the brim with on the money humour. Not a lot may really happen but I feel this critique can be stepped over as the soundtrack and buzz of food porn keep engagement levels steadily up.

A mouth watering film that revels in the attention of good food and picks no bones in being unashamedly heartwarming however much that idea has been plated up before.

7/10

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