Ricky's Film Reviews

Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases

Chef

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After being fired from his job as restaurant chef, Carl decides to start up a mobile food truck in order to reclaim his creative flair.
The truck is cleaned and kitted out, and Carl and his son hit the road.

But it’s not all success and adoring customers, because whilst on the road, Carl is going to learn important lessons in love, life and family commitment.

 

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Cast

Jon Favreau – Carl Casper

John Leguizamo – Martin

Bobby Cannavale – Tony

Emjay Anthony – Percy

Sofía Vergara – Inez

Scarlett Johansson – Molly

Dustin Hoffman – Riva

Oliver Platt – Ramsey Michael

 

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Sizzlin’

This movie is bursting at the seams with food.
The plot sees budding chef Carl build up a business from his food truck whilst trying to also build relationships with his family. But if you’re a ‘foodie’, love to eat or even work in a kitchen yourself, I am certain this movie will have you groaning with “mmmm”-type reactions. Chef runs like a normal movie, but you get short intervals at certain points which involve Carl cooking. Molly returns to his apartment one evening – and as she lays seductively on his bed, Carl’s eyes light up.
He knows what he wants next.
..so he gets a frying pan out.
Viewers are treated to sizzlin’ heat, drizzling oil, crunchy vegetables being chopped, pasta being twisted..

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I was craving food already.
And this was just the beginning. Further on in the movie I got an eyeful (and wished I had a gobful) of blackberries & raspberries being coated in thick whipping cream, smashed caramel, smoking bacon and gooey melted cheese, eggs being cracked onto hot plates, fried bread…

Whether Carl is knocking up a quick snack for his son or taking his time on a meal for the restaurant, the movie is a culinary feast which highlights the work that goes into the preparation of food – and it’s actually quite nice to watch. I started to realise cooking is actually a type of art; the overall idea for a dish and then getting to work making it – then cooking it, it really is an art form of its own. The movie scores points for this, I enjoyed watching (and indulging) the preparation of savoury meals and sweet desserts.

 

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Booming Business

The movie continues with Carl getting his mobile kitchen off the ground. After securing a food truck, he transforms it into his own vehicle and then hits the road with Percy (his son) and Martin (former kitchen colleague). As Carl drives the vehicle down the highways, Percy uses his iPhone to send out Tweets to the various states of America informing the public that the van is on its way.
The use of social media brings people flocking from all over, just to taste Carl’s delicious menus. The queues are stretching further and further as money flies at the truck, and punters walk away satisfied.
Business is booming nicely.

I enjoyed this aspect of the movie; the smell of success.
Very rarely in a film does the producer focus fully on the positive aspects of what is happening to the main protagonist. Usually, there’s a rival on the horizon who is bent on disrupting the lead character’s business, or another competitor who plays against him which results in a ‘who will win’ situation. Chef on the other hand was different. It focused purely on Carl’s departure from his full-time restaurant job and his jump into the unknown as he sets up his own mobile kitchen.

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The movie consists of Carl, Martin and Percy leaning over the counter and taking money as they busily cook up delicious sandwiches for the waiting public. The public are excited, the three chefs are smiling.. it’s all very positive and ambitious – again, without having a rival round the corner. This is the key element I enjoyed; the display of enthusiasm, good humour and ambition. That’s all it was – three boys enjoying themselves whilst doing something they love. What could be more inspiring than that? More points scored for this element.

 

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Following In His Footsteps

Carl’s attempt at being a father left a lot to be desired. As the boys hit the road, little Percy seems to be lacking enthusiasm – it is clear the young lad’s desires are pointing in any other direction than his father’s food truck. Carl even has the boy on his knees, scrubbing the inside of the truck from top to bottom, before barking orders at him to start on the oven.
The poor thing. But shortly after this, Carl takes Percy aside for a ‘father-son’ talk. And presents him with a gift.
A butcher’s knife.

Later on, he has a private talk with his son which turns into a heated scolding. Carl more or less shouts Percy into following his father’s career of being a chef.
It bordered on annoying – watching this chubby old bastard verbally bash his own child into following his footsteps without listening to what the poor kid actually wanted to do. The contempt I felt toward the man was sky-high, but at the same time the writers got the relationship spot-on; there are pushy parents out there who don’t want – but expect – their children to like the same things they do, take part in the same activities they did, even do the same job.
Jon Favreau nailed it by highlighting this serious issue.

 

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Twits

I swear to god, if the main cause of Carl’s success didn’t stem from social networking, Chef would be a promotional advert for Twitter.
Once his son has sent the first ‘tweet’ which gets people interested in their business, Carl climbs the ladder of success – with the help of Twitter.
The movie shows Percy constantly on his mobile phone sending out messages, with Carl checking up on what is happening. Cue the slight use of special effects as little blue birds flicker across the screen tweeting – for example, Percy sends a ‘tweet’ and a bird flutters from his phone up into the sky. This aspect actually had the audience laughing out loud. They seemed to enjoy this portrayal of the recent social media activity on screen.

At one point, father and son sit at the kitchen table discussing the website and how people use it. Again, it was like watching an instructional video for new Twitter users. Percy sits and explains bit by bit exactly how you create an account, send tweets, followers / following, etc. I rolled my eyes during this scene, wondering how much Twitter were making from this movie.

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Another wonderfully subtle advertising opportunity was all down to Martin (Leguizamo), who is seen sporting an Adidas baseball cap quite frequently through the beginning of the movie. And is then wearing an Adidas sports wristband later on when working in the food truck. Cleverly done Jon, well done. Perhaps the movie was sponsored by the brands, who knows.

 Content

 

Observational

Chef displays some observational elements throughout.
One scene sees the boys taking selfies in the truck which are subsequently splashed all over the internet for the world to see. This had an air of familiarity which I had experienced before. And see if you can spot the background members of the public laughing and reacting at the actors on set. I could tell parts of this were filmed on the street, but boy is it obvious.

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Chef is a masterclass in cookery. And bad parenting.
It is not overly exciting or intriguing, but its story does boast an air of success and talent.
It is a bit boring in parts, but picks itself up again when the boys are on the road, serving food.
Personally, I couldn’t watch it again – it’s just not entertaining enough for a second round. Main course was more than enough, I’d have to skip dessert.
Ironically, my score matches the result of Carl’s restaurant review in the movie.
You could have done better, Jon.

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This entry was posted on July 3, 2014 by .
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