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Review: ‘Chef’ will satisfy film-goers’ hunger

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, May 22, 2014, at 4:34 p.m.




* * * 

Rating: R for language, including some suggestive references

Starring: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr.

Written and directed by: Jon Favreau

Foodies will absolutely love “Chef,” the amiable comedy/drama/road trip film from writer-director and star Jon Favreau. The food shown in the movie looks absolutely scrumptious, and the sound of it cooking and sizzling will undoubtedly make you hungry.

“Chef” doesn’t exactly tread new ground, but it’s a nice story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, either, in its messages about family and responsibility. It’s an engaging time well-spent.

Favreau plays Carl, the head chef at a posh Los Angeles restaurant who is busily preparing his staff for a big night ahead, as the city’s most influential food critic, Ramsey Michael (Oliver Platt), is coming to the restaurant for dinner.

Carl has a unique menu lined up, but butts head with the restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman), who wants Carl to stick to tried-and-true basics. Carl reluctantly does.

The move backfires, though, and Ramsey writes a scathing review that really gets to Carl. The review blows up on Twitter, re-tweeted hundreds of times. This means nothing to the tech-challenged Carl, though. His young son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), explains and even sets up a Twitter account for Carl.

Still enraged, Carl sends a message to Ramsey on Twitter thinking it is private. It’s not, of course, and goes viral. Carl ends up challenging Ramsey to return for another meal, but the restaurant owner again butts heads with Carl, and he loses his job.

It doesn’t help matters that Carl confronts Ramsey in a tirade that gets recorded on restaurant patrons’ phones, and videos immediately go viral.

Carl is now a sort of online celebrity, but not in a good way. Jobless and penniless, he’s offered the chance to accompany his ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara, always ravishing), on a business trip to Miami so he can act as nanny to Percy. Once there, Inez convinces him to buy a food truck, and they cook their way back to L.A.

It’s a feel-good sort of road trip movie that does tend to wander a bit (it certainly could have been 20 minutes shorter). But as Carl opens up to Percy, he opens up to us, as well. He learns life lessons, and Percy learns how to cook.

Performances are bright if effortless. Favreau must have called in a lot of favors, as everyone from Scarlett Johansson to Robert Downey Jr. pops up, if briefly.

This was certainly a passion project for Favreau, and it shows. He may have a love for film, but his love for food is just as voracious. And filling.

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