Chef — MOVIE REVIEW

Emjay Anthony, Jon Favreau, and Sofia Vergara in Chef

It has become kind of a cool thing to hate on Jon Favreau. People started to dislike him for giving us Iron Man 2. Others hate him for numerous other reasons. But he has become his own underdog and this new movie of his kind of feels like it’s an underdog too. Chef tells us the story about one fantastic chef and the road he travels when he has to start fresh. This concept has been done before, but Favreau’s take on it feels brand new.

Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is in a tough spot. He is no longer married, has a strained relationship with his son Percy (Emjay Anthony), and because of circumstances regarding control of his own menu and a harsh critique from a renowned restaurant critic; Carl is forced to take a look at his life and start fresh. Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara), Percy, and his good friend Martin (John Leguizamo) to launch a food truck where he can make whatever food he wants. Taking to the road, Carl goes back to his roots to reignite his passion for the kitchen and maybe even form a bond with his son.

Favreau is an all-star here, as he writes, directs, and stars in Chef. This is definitely a feel-good movie and you will walk out of the theater with a giant smile on your face. Not one moment goes by in this movie where you don’t enjoy yourself. Whether you are smiling, laughing, having a heartwarming moment, or hearing your stomach growl from seeing so many different palates of exquisite and delicious food; you will be thoroughly entertained. And I can finally say that I forgive Jon Favreau for Couple’s Retreat. That is the movie that made me just shake my head no at the thought of even viewing a Jon Favreau film. But after seeing Chef, he has restored my faith in him as an actor and a director.

This movie has a lot of things going for it. It is indie by nature, so it isn’t worn down by cheap and sappy romantic garbage (like in No Reservations). It also resorts to substance over flair. There is a terrific cast in this movie, and it would have been easy to draw attention to the big-name actors and actresses in the movie, but they play their roles in a subtle manner that doesn’t draw attention to them. You get extended brief roles from A-listers like Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., and Dustin Hoffman. But they don’t draw attention to themselves in a way that is distracting. They fit very well here and credit goes to Favreau for directing an all-star cast list that still seems like a small movie.

There are two main functions in this movie. To make you hungry for food that you can’t get at any fast food restaurant and to show you that Robert Downey Jr. can be witty in any movie. Okay, maybe not really. The function of the movie is to show how real passion can lead to great things if you follow your heart, and it also shows how father and son can bond over any shared interests. At the core of this movie, the relationship between Carl and his son is definitely estranged. Percy just wants to spend time with his dad but Carl is too busy with his kitchen most of the time. But as he has to start fresh when it comes to being a chef, the same can be said for him as a father as well. He starts fresh and you can see the relationship between the two grow. That is one of the best parts of this movie. The relationship between the father and son, whether it be estranged or the eventual growth; always feels real and genuine.

Even though it is hard to believe that Jon Favreau could ever land a woman like Sofia Vergara (much like Ed O’Neil in Modern Family), you can still see the chemistry between the two. They show how separated couples can still function on a friendly level. And this is the most I have ever liked Vergara in anything. You can understand everything she says and she is extremely likable here. The chemistry aspect works for the rest of the cast as well. They all work great together. Leguizamo and Favreau have an awesome best-friend chemistry going on and they all work great with the young actor Emjay Anthony.

This movie is hilarious at times, yet heartwarming. This is why I love indie movies. They have that human element that is missing from the big budget Hollywood blockbusters you see in the summertime. They focus on the little things that matter. They focus on the scenery, the relationships, and the heart of where the film truly lies. Plus, it has an awesome soundtrack and the food looks delicious. If only El Jefe was real; I would drive to get me some of that food.

Cast:

Jon Favreau as Chef Carl Casper
Sofia Vergara as Inez
John Leguizamo as Martin
Emjay Anthony as Percy
Bobby Cannavale as Tony
Dustin Hoffman as Riva
Oliver Platt as Ramsey Michel
Amy Sedaris as Jen
Scarlett Johansson as Molly
Robert Downey Jr. as Marvin

WHAT I LIKED:

+: Good story made great with terrific performances all around and a lot of heart.

+: Jon Favreau proves he can do it all as he writes, directs, and stars in this movie. And he nails them all down. The dialogue is smart and funny when it needs to be, the locations are subtle but breathtaking, and he proves he can act brilliantly with great comedic timing once again.

+: The father and son dynamic really adds a good amount of weight to the story, and it is all for the better.

+: Extremely funny at times.

+: Great soundtrack

+: Just a really good “feel-good” movie that everyone of any age can enjoy.

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