Except for some expletive-filled language which is almost under the radar, Chef is a perfectly nice little movie. In other words you can wait until it comes out on DVD to see it. Actually, you might be happier waiting to see it at home, because the food photography is so mouth-watering that you’ll be too hungry to sit still all the way through it in the theatre.
Jon Favreau is best known as the director of high-tech blockbusters, Iron Man and Iron Man 2. But, as he has in his current flick, Chef, he’s taken on the three tasks of director/writer/actor before—in Made (2001), a low-key boxer/criminal story co-starring his pal Vince Vaughan.
Favreau is a pleasant burly man who inhabits his nice-guy roles with comfortable believability. In this film, he’s Carl Casper, a highly creative, ego-driven chef in a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant owned by Dustin Hoffman. His staff consists of several Hispanics including John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale. The hostess, as wise as she is gorgeous, is Scarlett Johannson. One night Carl says the sexiest thing a man can ever say to a woman – “Let me cook you something,” but the two don’t really hook up because Carl is still in love with his Cuban ex-wife (Colombia-born Sofia Vergara).
Carl spends his few non-cooking moments trying to be a father to his patient son, Percy (a delightful Emjay Anthony), but the boy is about to give up and just ignore Dad every time he comes around.
After a nasty food critic, Oliver Platt, gives a vicious review to his dinner at the restaurant, Carl goes ballistic on social media, something he knows nothing about, but after tweeting and going viral, Carl learns a lot about the power of an I-phone. He not only loses his job, but ruins his career. A manic public relations nut job (a hilarious Amy Sedaris) thinks Carl can salvage himself on a pathetic TV cooking show. Carl refuses.
Humiliation is the name of the game these days, alas. Next Carl goes to Miami and meets with his ex-wife’s ex-husband, a slimy moneybags played by a gleefully reptilian Robert Downey Jr. Through the ex-husband’s charity, the food truck enters–a disgustingly dirty vehicle which Carl and Percy clean up in a montage of father-son bonding. Then John Leguizamo turns up in Miami to help.
They decide to make Cuban food and off they all go across the country, making lots of stops along the way, and lots of money, too. It seems Cuban food is so tasty that it drives people crazy. Unfortunately for me, who by this time was ready to eat the seats in the theatre in front of me, there were very few shots of the Cuban food so we just have to use our imagination about that culinary treat.
Basically that’s it. I’m not kidding – that is it. The happy ending is so happy that I can’t ruin it by giving you any hints other than to say whatever was bothering Carl at various points in the story all get wrapped up like ingredients in a perfectly wrapped burrito. See this one at home while you’re having a nice dinner.