Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Jon Favreau
Cast: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony, Sofía Vergara, Amy Sedaris, Russell Peters, Chase Grimm, Will Schutze, Gloria Sandoval, Jose C. Hernandez
Synopsis: A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, including some suggestive references
7.7 / 10
- Acting was good
- The first two acts were set up rather well
- Well paced
- The relationship between Carl and his son felt genuine.
- Nice mix of drama and humor to make it engaging.
- Third act is a bit sloppy, and leaves little to no closure to most of the film
- Has some subplots and scenes that look like it could lead to something interesting, but it never goes anywhere.
A delectable palate of a film that'll entice you with it's mouth watering taste, but it'll sadly leave you craving more...
"Chef" is without a doubt the best Jon Favreau comedy that I've seen, since "Elf." It's funny, entertaining, and well written for the most part. However, most of this film's problems lie in it's sloppy execution of it's third act. Like a delicious meal at a five star restaurant, the first act draws into it's delicious aroma. It's tantalizing plating design, and brief hint of flavor.
And once you're done dining on the delectable first act appetizer, we dig into the second act that quenches your taste buds in what looks like a delectable meal. Sadly, when you get to the dessert portion of the film, which happens to be the third act, it leaves you craving more instead of giving us the satisfying meal we were promised by the trailers. The kind of meal that makes you feel like you're in heaven, as you dine it's delicious flavor. Yet when it comes to "Chef", it leaves you hungry for something more satisfying.
Don't get me wrong, "Chef" is still a delicious meal that I'm sure most moviegoers will love, as the first two acts of this film make it worth seeing. However, it seems like Jon Favreau may have needed some help finishing this story, as the conclusion leaves a lot of plot holes and unanswered questions that kind of ruin what could've been a highly underrated masterpiece.
The story revolves around a famous chef named Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), who's been working at a prestigious restaurant for years. Once, he was regarded as one of America's most elite chefs by popular food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt). Sadly, he's been forced to succumb to the business side of being a chef over the years. With an overbearing restaurant owner, Riva (Dustin Hoffman), Carl is forced to sacrifice his own creativity when it comes to cooking food, so he can pander to whatever the consumers want. In other words, he's forced to compromise his own artistic integrity when it comes to cooking, in favor of serving up food that the masses are familiar with, so they can make money. Indeed, it's a tragedy that art often suffers, in light of the big picture business these days.
Needless to say, this little fact is not lost on Ramsey, as he ends up writing a bad review on Carl's cooking. As I stated before, Carl was once praised as being a creative genius when it came to cooking, but the same food critic that endorsed him before says that Carl has lost his touch. Comparing his cooking to a clingy old aunt that pays her nieces/nephews money to spend time with them, even though the children detest spending time with their dear old auntie.
Long story short, Carl doesn't take this news too well, when he finds out about Ramsey's online review. This prompts him to call out Ramsey on his twitter account, which escalates into a full online war between the two. Unfortunately, Carl didn't know that replying to Ramsey on twitter would be a public message, as he thought all replies on there were private. Sadly, he soon realizes that isn't the case. All this leads up to Carl demanding that Ramsey show up to the restaurant again, to try out a new menu of food that he says will knock his socks off.
However, there's only one small problem. Riva doesn't give a s***. As far as he's concerned, he doesn't care about Ramsey calling out Carl for lack of creativity in the review. No, he only cares about making money. And as far as he's concerned, the best way to make money is to stick to the same tired old menu that customers have been buying for years; which inevitably leads to Carl quitting his job.
Add in the fact that he also manages to make a fool out of himself online, when he confronts Ramsey in the restaurant, and it's safe to assume his career is ruined. After a series of events, Carl eventually tries to start over again as a chef, as he starts his own food truck.
Add in a subplot about Carl being a divorced father, who tries to reconnect with his estranged son, and you pretty much have the whole story in a nutshell. If you've seen as many films as I have, then you pretty much know exactly how this movie is going to turn out. You know at some point Carl is going to bond with his son, and they're going to learn crap from each other. You know the film is going to end on a high note with it's Hollywood style ending, as "Chef" still manages to succumb to all the stereotypical cliches that one would expect in a comedy like this.
"Chef" is nothing if not insanely predictable. But, I honestly didn't mind at all. Sure, the story is a bit cliched, and predictable, but it has it's own unique charm to it. The first two acts of the film is paced and set up rather well. Jon Favreau does a tremendous job setting up the story to where even if you know exactly what's going to happen, you still can't help but enjoy the ride anyway. The characters are likable, and the conflicts between them are interesting and engaging to follow.
Plus, I loved the fact that Carl's son was portrayed as being a normal f***ing kid. It would've been so easy for "Chef" to make Carl's son just another damn brat that acts like an adult in a kid's body (i.e. Tim Allen's piece of crap "Santa Clause" and Hugh Jackman's "Real Steel", to name a few).; which most audiences seem to think is cute, but it's more annoying than anything else... Thankfully though, that doesn't seem to be the case.
In fact, almost everything about this film is set up rather well. Granted, the acting isn't exactly Oscar worthy per say, but the acting performances are done rather well. In fact, the first two acts of this film is executed almost perfectly, as it adds in just the right amount of humor and drama that keeps the audience emotionally invested.
Sadly though, it falls apart a bit during the final third act that it almost makes you wonder what Jon Favreau could've been thinking. Don't get me wrong, it's still a very good comedy, but the thing is the ending of this movie keeps it from being the great comedy it could've been had it been written and edited a bit better.
(Warning: The following paragraphs contain spoilers. If you don't want to have the movie spoiled for you, then please skip to the last paragraph)
For starters, Scarlett Johansson plays a waitress that seems to share an intimate relationship with Carl. In fact, she's the one that encourages him to use his free time to reconnect with his son, during the first act of the film. When we see Jon and Scarlett interact with each other, it almost seems like the film itself is setting this up to where they'll end up together at the end. However, we never see her again, after the first act.
Then we get to Carl's ex wife, Inez (Sofía Vergara). Now, we're never told why Carl and Inez are divorced, but it's heavily implied that Carl was always too busy with work to spend time with his own son, so one can only assume that might've been part of the reason. However, during the second act, it's implied that Carl might still have feelings for his ex wife, as he gets jealous over the possibility that his ex wife might've been sleeping with her ex husband that she was married to before him. Sadly though, that plot point never goes anywhere either.
It's an interesting set up to say the least, as you'd hope that the film would've resolved that issue by either addressing the fact that parents don't always get back together, as Carl tries to tell his son after he asks why they're divorced, at the beginning of the film. Or at the very least, it could've shown us a story that involved him not only rekindling things with his son, but winning his ex wife back as well. Sadly, "Chef" leaves these issues unresolved, to where you can't help but wonder what happened.
.Instead, the movie primarily focuses on Carl rediscovering his passion creatively to be a chef again, and bonding with his son; which is exactly where the focus of the film should be. However, the film goes out of it's way to set up these unique characters and scenes that you think could go somewhere, but it never does; hence making the movie seem a bit weaker than what it could've been.
Don't get me wrong, "Chef" is still one of the best comedies that I've seen all year, but it falls tragically short of what it could've been. In the end, I'd probably have to recommend to my readers to wait until this comes out on netflix to check it out, as I wouldn't pay to see this in theaters. But for what it is, it's not a bad film to enjoy on a typical Friday night.
© 2014 Steven Escareno
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