The movie Chef, directed by Jon Favreau, is doted with a very original plot: Respected Los Angeles-based chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) turns infamous after his explosive reaction to a negative review goes viral, leaving him miserable from every point of view.
Professionally, his future looks desolate, and in the midst of Carl’s stress and embarrassment, his relationship with his young son, Percy (EmJay Anthony) deteriorates. Finally, Carl accompanies his ex-wife (Sofía Vergara) and their son to Miami, where he purchases and renovates a food truck.
With the help of Percy, a former cook from his Los Angeles restaurant (John Leguizamo) and social media, Carl enjoys the immense popularity of his truck and consequently is able to reconnect with his son.
Chef’s trailer left a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my stomach. I expected a cute, lighthearted comedy, but Favreau is too ambitious, trying to produce a deeply touching and humorous film in the style of the French hit The Intouchables (directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano). This comes naturally in the simple, though uncommon situations of The Intouchables; in Chef, it is forced, resulting in a bland, monotonous movie.
Scenes meant to be funny remain neutral. For example, Carl meets with his ex-wife’s ex-husband (Robert Downey, Jr.), who announces the problematic pregnancy of his secretary. Their conversation then brusquely switches from what to do concerning the baby to which new carpet Downey’s character should purchase. I did not laugh; I was confused.
Serious scenes are equally ineffective. Whether he is visiting the French quarter in New Orleans with Percy or entrusting him with a valuable chef’s knife, I never felt a bond forming between Carl and his son. Not to mention that among these flaws lie blatant clichés (the success of Carl’s food truck is too great and sudden to be realistic, the harsh food critic from the beginning of the film becomes kind and humble, and SPOILER ALERT, Percy’s parents remarry at the end).
Objectively, Chef has potential. After all, I was eager to see it in theaters after viewing its trailer. The film’s plot is unprecedented and its cast is quite talented. So why did my emotions barely shift over the course of one hour and fifty-four minutes?
Chef’s fatal flaw lies in its structure. Different scenes, their goals of eliciting laughter or tears too obvious to accomplish, are awkwardly strung together. The story does not seem natural, and the film flows badly. At least Chef does an excellent job of showcasing the power of social media, responsible for the truck’s implausible popularity. This is something else uncommon in recent movies, and an indicator that, despite a disappointing movie, Favreau is still in touch with reality.
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