May 30, 2014

Movie Review: Chef

Chef is a movie we have all seen before in one form or another. It is not original in the least, but for some reason it still works. It is the story of an inattentive father, ex-husband, and chef who has lost his way. After a particularly ill conceived blow up, he finds himself unemployed, with no prospects, and a son whom he barely knows. The film chronicles the build up to the blow up and the subsequent attempt he makes to reconstruct his life, his career, and ultimately rediscover himself and those who care about him.

Jon Favreau, who also wrote and directed the movie, stars as Carl Casper. He is a respected chef who seems to have lost his way when he butts heads with his boss (Dustin Hoffman). It starts simply enough, we watch him do his thing in the kitchen, getting excited about creating some special menu items for an upcoming food critic visit. This creates some tension between the two as the boss wants him to continue making the food everyone loves, while Casper wants to inject some new creativity into the mix. As it always goes, the boss wins. The critic (Oliver Platt) does not seem to fond of the unimaginative fare and lets loose in his column.

This negative review pushes Casper over the edge. Throughout this time we also see his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), with whom he is still friends, and his son (Emjay Anthony), whom wants more than anything to spend time with his dad. After Casper blows up on the critic and finds himself unemployed he is asked along on a trip from LA to Miami. The purpose of the trip is for him to spend time with his son. It turns into something much more.

The trip to Miami is the turning point in the movie. It allows him to center himself, step away from the troubles that surrounded him in LA. He does this by starting up a food truck. The truck allows him to rediscover his chef's roots and gives a reason to spend more time with his son. Thus begins the cross country journey to get the truck back to LA.

Chef really is a simple movie. It is one that succeeds on its execution, its characters, and its overall likability. At nearly two hours in length, it may seem a bit long, but it is never dull. It is a movie that actually takes time to build its characters in a logical fashion. It makes sense. The length allows us to spend time getting to know Carl before and after the event that makes him reconsider his life. It doesn't rush into showing the explosion. It builds, it allows us to get a more rounded picture of the guy.

It is a movie that will make you smile. It is just nice to watch the stuff in the truck that goes on between father and son. On top of that, the food just looks amazing and when it was over I really wanted a Cuban sandwich. Another fun thing is the use of social media. The integration of Twitter actually works, makes sense, and is visualized well.

There really isn't that much else to say. Jon Favreau has realized a nice movie that has nice characters, is interesting, and is just fun to watch. It is nothing great by any stretch, but it is perfectly enjoyable. It also has a solid cast that besides Favreau, Hoffman, Platt, and Vergara, also includes John Leguizamo, Bobby Canavale, Scarlet Johansson, and Robert Downey Jr.


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