Written by Deborah Wee for inSing.com.
As expected of any cooking film, Chef is undoubtedly qualified as food porn, sizzling with spectacular mouthwatering shots of everything from haute restaurant cuisine to simple grilled cheese sandwiches.
But that’s not the only thing that is delicious about the film.
With Jon Favreau packing a quadruple punch as the film’s director, producer, writer and lead actor, his seventh film at the director’s helm proves to be another tasteful delivery from the multi-talented star.
In essence, Chef is a full course meal of dream chasing, risk taking and family bonding peppered with gorgeous images of food.
A TASTY RIDE
Favreau uses a simple hero to zero-to-hero formula for Carl Casper, the workaholic head chef at a Los Angeles restaurant struggling with an environment of stifled creativity and an imposing boss.
Things bubble over when his cooking is panned by a renowned online critic in a review that goes viral. Carl trades his toque for a food truck to rediscover the joy of cooking.
His career switch also takes him and his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), on a literal and metaphorical journey that forces them to confront previous tensions and develops a father-son bond that neither has experienced before.
The result is both uplifting, heart-warming and tear-jerking at the right moments.
The technologically-savvy Percy fits comfortably as the driving force of what makes Chef arguably the most relevant cooking film to date.
Social media is an effectively utilised and very influential element of the film, playing a huge role in Carl’s downfall and rise and his relationship with his family.
Resultantly, the 21st century audience effortlessly warms up to Carl’s story.
STAR SIDE STARS
Chef will appeal to audiences with various appetites because it has a little bit of everything.
One of its most alluring qualities is its lavish spread of A-list Hollywood stars. Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara plays Carl’s spirited ex-wife, who despite drawing fewer laughs from us than Vergara’s consistently hilarious Gloria Pritchett, is nonetheless charming and a welcoming presence.
Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman, although only appearing for a fraction of the film, hold their own with effective portrayals of their characters.
Hoffman, in particular, is wonderful in making sure that his otherwise supporting character’s impact is fully felt.
Robert Downey, Jr. reunites with Favreau in yet another collaboration between the two as Carl’s ex-wife’s ex-husband who is likeable despite the complicated relationship.
John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale join Favreau in the kitchen as Carl’s energetic sidekicks.
TOO MUCH ON ITS PLATE
For Chef, juggling so many sub-plots is the culprit for its shortcomings. It ignites the appetites, but is unable to satiate all of them.
One is not sure whether the main course is Carl’s culinary career (as the film’s title implies) or his relationship with his son.
Viewers will appreciate both, but likely leave feeling unsatisfied that neither is acknowledged as the sole, main plot.
Despite the film’s fast-moving pace, two hours is barely enough to adequately develop the ambitious number of sub-plots that Chef tries to squeeze in.
A potential romance between Carl and Scarlett Johansson’s character is clearly established, but quickly brushed aside.
Similarly with Vergara’s character; the re-blossoming relationship between Carl and his ex-wife does not progress beyond a brief indication that the two characters might reunite.
Chef also serves up its most climatic scene early in the film, leaving the dessert that rounds up the ‘meal’ less impressive and memorable than the appetiser that started it. The ending is abrupt and comparatively less exciting.
Still, Chef is an enjoyable and relevant film that will appeal to most audiences. Its smartly written script and intelligent dialogue keeps the film entertaining throughout.
One should definitely make a reservation for this film that both feels good and tastes good.
Rating: 3.5/5 (TALK-o-meter: “Good, not great.”)