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Chef - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

John Favreau clearly has a lot of very famous friends in Hollywood. How else to explain the parade of faces in his small budget movie that has only grossed $11.4 million thus far? It deserves to make more, even though all the movie stars that appear in supporting parts verge on distracting.

If that's the closest thing to a complaint about a movie, though, you're doing pretty well. Look past the likes of Dustin Hoffman as a short sighted restaurant owner; John Leguizamo as a sous-chef; Oliver Platt as a food critic; Sofía Vergara as an ex-wife and Robert Downey Jr. as the ex-wife's ex-husband, and you've just got a simple, charming, straightforward story of a frustrated chef who quits his job to open a food truck.

Favreau, who plays chef Carl Casper, wrote and directed. He must have his own passion for food, because a whole lot of Chef amounts to food porn -- shots of food getting prepared, food getting eaten, food on display. It all looks amazing. Even the meat -- and I'm a vegetarian. You probably shouldn't see this movie on an empty stomach.

Carl loses his job as head chef at a restaurant gone stale with the same menu for the past ten years after he has a bit of a breakdown in front of the food critic, who had written a scathing review that included personal attacks. Plenty of patrons have their phones at the ready and their videos of the incident go viral. Carl needs the help of his ten-year-old son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), to learn the ins and outs of social media. Carl is totally ignorant and Percy is all over that shit: Twitter, Facebook, Vine, you name it.

As it happens, Chef is one of the few movies to incorporate social media in its story in an organic and fairly seamless way. It plays a significant role, as Percy takes on the task of social media specialist, promoting the food truck as it travels across the country from Miami to Los Angeles. It comes across as plausible.

Once Carl gets a favor from his ex's ex (Downey Jr, for his part, is actually fairly funny in his one scene), much of the second half of Chef becomes a food-truck road movie. Carl and Percy spend a lot of time bonding, having spent little time when Carl was obsessed with his work.

That's the only "conflict" here, really -- Carl learning to get to know his own son. It's nice to see a depiction of a divorced couple who are still friends and continue genuinely to care about each other. Inez (Vergara) even eventually pitches in at the food truck herself.

If this movie had been made at the behest of studio executives, there would be something much more serious included: Dad breaking his son's trust, a huge financial setback as the food truck gets in an accident, something. Favreau engages in no such pandering. We just see a lot of Percy helping out in the food truck kitchen, where the worst thing that happens is minor burns on his fingers.

Chef is just pleasant, diverting fun. There's nothing profound about it, no message, nothing important to say. It's just a relaxed story with a healthy sprinkling of charm and humor. Our multiplexes could do more with the likes of movies like this.

Jon Favreau (right), John Leguizamo and Emjay Anthony offer savory treats in CHEF.

Overall: B+
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