Rated: R for language, including some suggestive references. Reviewed by: Jim - Frank Release date: May 9, 2014 Released by: Open Road Films
Jon Favreau directs, writes and stars in Chef a contrived, if mouth-watering tale of reinvention.
There's no Vince Vaughn in sight here when the last mob-related comedy which the burly, tousled-coiffed actor here Made had him multi-tasking before becoming a big name Hollywood helmer of Iron Man (and its first sequel) and Cowboys & Aliens, to name two (while he was still appearing in studio productions with his buddy like Couples Retreat).
A posh City of Angels eatery is where the titular Carl Casper (Favreau) flourishes until food critic Michael Ramsey, well done with pitch-perfect negativity by Oliver Platt, causes an outburst that goes viral and Carl can't recover. Even when no-nonsense owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) tells him to stick by the menu mainstays or "playing the hits" (instead of being overly adventurous) that results in a Twitter war. And makes him virtually unemployable.
So, if the early reels take their time and probably wear out their welcome relief is to come as Carl's zaftig ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara of TV's Modern Family) and social-network sharp son Percy (Emjay Anthony of It's Complicated) goes or retreats with the pariah to Miami. That's where he'll acquire and fix up a food truck with the help of another of quite attractive Inez's exes, Marvin, Robert Downey, Jr. in an offbeat, but droll cameo.
With a production that is handsomely mounted to make a travelogue to showcase the likes of Austin a savoir faire and business is given a jumpstart with handy multilingual sous chef Martin, a spry, quite likable John Leguizamo, along for the ride. What really isn't that conventional as it appears to be develops a warmth in a father-son reconnection that doesn't get too syrupy thanks to the fine rapport between Favreau and Anthony who is definitely exudes more than his cute presence would indicate.
Perico Hernandez is the one behind the rhythmic Cuban sounds that help make those Cubanos look so scrumptious nicely complemented with jazz and blues riffs. It helps that Scarlett Johansson can make an impression in a lesser role as a key, interested confidante of Carl as restaurant colleague Molly and Vergara ably in Favreau's sensible enough scenario draws a portrait around the strained and lavish.
A more modest effort not that sentimental but genuinely heartfelt makes for a character whose purpose and truthfulness is never more prevalent than with his neglected pre-teen son. Favreau's Chef may not rival the likes of Ratatouille, Mostly Martha or Big Night in stirring up a variety of ingredients in an unsubtle not so light way; yet it is more often than not a crowd-pleasing cinematic stew that is hard to resist.
Jon Favreau stars and directs a low key film about a family that is unusual even by today's standards. He shares a son (Emjay Anthony) with Sofia Vergara who he was married to but who was also married to Robert Downey and probably was fooling around with Downey after her marriage to Favreau.
While the background and tapestry revolves around food, Favreau is a chief working for Dustin Hoffman who refuses to allow Favreau to range with his culinary products at a successful restaurant in Los Angeles.
Favreau's dedication to his work has his son unhappy with dad who is not available to spend time with him. When Percy (Anthony) draws his father to twitter dat makes the mistake to placing a message to food critic (Oliver Pratt) that goes viral.
Mom (Vergara) offers dad and son to join her on a trip to Miami planning to have the two males bond as she works. That begins the development of a food truck in which they work together and travel across the country stoping in New Orleans and in Texas spreading the word on the blog that the food truck is coming to town. The internet publicity which caused Dad's initial problems begins to place him back on top and fold the family back together.
Vergara is stunning as usual and along with John Leguizamo uses spanish to help the fledgling business get started.
Filled with a toe taping musical sound track, and beautiful tempting food the small story of family works well. It brings us a comfortable enjoyable short stay with a modern type of American family.