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He Said, She Said Review Site

Chef

What She said:

She

Are you a fan of the food service industry who is looking for a light feel-good family comedy?  Well, then Chef may just spice things up and quench your thirst—puns all intended.  This 2014 self-discovery comedy is light on the drama and goes down smooth as butter.  While in no way groundbreaking or award-worthy, the film is easy to digest, and may make for an adequate third course for your Saturday night.

Now, on to the meat and potatoes.  Chef tells the story of Carl Casper, a prominent Los Angeles chef whose career seems to have become stagnant.  He’s also a single father who is struggling to have a meaningful relationship with his ten year old son.  Carl gets extra riled up when a well-known food critic gives his cooking a scathing review.  He basically said that it was as un-creative and un-memorable as possible, and that the once promising Chef Casper has lost his touch.  Carl takes this to heart, and wants to show that he’s capable of amazing things, but his arms are tied by the restaurant’s owner, who wants him to stick to the tried and true classics.  Carl cannot take it anymore, and so he quits.

Chef

With broken promises to his son looming, and now being out of work, he’s lost.  Fortunately, Carl still has a pretty good relationship with his ex-wife Inez.  She hooks him up with an investor in Miami who is willing to get Carl started with a food truck.  Carl embraces the idea, and decides to go with Cuban-inspired meal choices.  The truck also provides him with a wonderful opportunity to get to know his son better as they travel from Miami back to Los Angeles together in the truck, setting up shop, cooking, and making sales along the way.  Carl’s friend and former co-worker, Martin, also joins the enterprise, and together the three of them have a few weeks they’ll never forget.  Carl finds himself through the inspired cooking he’s been lacking, and also forges a stronger bond with his son along the way.

Very basic stuff, and very watchable.  John Favreau plays Carl.  He’s overweight, bloated, and angry when the movie begins.  By the end of the film, he’s still overweight and bloated, but now he’s happy, a marked improvement.  His son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) is adorably patient with his father, despite being letdown by the guy upon several occasions.  He and his mother, Inez (Sofia Vegara), still really believe in Carl, and it’s cute.  They’re not as frustrated as you would expect them to be.  Overall, it seems that despite falling on hard times, luck is consistently in Carl’s favor.  He always has someone willing to get his back.

Now, let me just take a moment to acknowledge the complete implausibility of someone like Sofia Vegara EVER marrying and/or procreating with Jon Favreau.  To say that the fella scored would be an understatement.  But for some reason, her character still has a soft spot for Carl.  In fact, she seems to adore him.

Chef

Favreau wrote, produced, and directed the film, in addition to starring in it.  The man obviously has a soft spot in his heart for good food that has heart and culture.  Actually, that’s a decent description for the film in general.  It’s good and has heart and culture.  It’s really about family, finding your inspiration for life, and enjoying the simple things, like food.  I enjoyed seeing Carl’s relationship with Percy strengthen, as they’re a good team together.

The comedy is this film isn’t roll on the floor funny, but it’s cute and light.  It’s all just…nice.  I enjoyed seeing the different scenery as the food truck rolled on from location to location, and learning a little bit more about the foods involved.  I had just eaten dinner before watching this movie, and it STILL made me hungry. 

There were a few people in this film that I wasn’t expecting to see—Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey, Jr., all in smaller supporting roles.  That was a delightful little surprise.

All-in-all, Chef isn’t going to be winning any major awards, but it’s a decent film that’s just enjoyable to watch.  Favreau wasn’t re-inventing the wheel of cinema when he came up with this movie—he was paying homage to an obvious passion and hobby of his, food.

Thumbs up.

Chef

What He said:

He

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a chef. He is originally from Miami, which is where he made a name for himself as an upcoming and coming chef. He has since moved to California, where he seems to have been for many years, and while the restaurant he works at is quite popular, his reputation as a chef has faltered. He does not make bad food, but is criticized for cooking what is considered safe meals. He takes no risks. Actually, only one critic criticizes him, played by Oliver Platt, but it really gets to him. He wages a Twitter war with the critic and invites him to come back to the restaurant; where he will cook a better menu. He gets into an argument with the owner Ravi (Dustin Hoffman), over the menu, and quits as a result.  

Chef

It’s minor rant time. Personally, I don’t see an issue with the chef cooking meals that people actually enjoy and I think the owner has the right to make the chef serve food that makes him his money. It’s his restaurant after all. Additioally, I enjoy eating, and enjoy eating quite a bit, but I would not call myself a foodie. I am not snobby, do not care about presentation, and don’t get caught up in trends (like combining desserts with burgers for example). I care about one thing – if the food tastes good. I don’t care if the food is considered “safe”, do not give a damn some showy presentation in the slightest, and don’t think something has to be exotic to be good. I actually really hate that kind of eatery. Give me good food over fine dining any, and every, day of the week.  Rant over.

Now jobless, Carl has to get creative. His ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) suggests he try something new and different. If you know anything about foodies, food trends, etc., you know that food trucks have become tremendously popular over the years. No longer serving only fast food, food trucks now serve gourmet level meals. She urges him to try that route, but he initially scoffs. She invites him to go along with her and their son Percy (Emjay Anthony) to Miami. She has some business to conduct and she says that he can keep their son company, they don’t have a great relationship, and enjoy the scenery along the way.

While in Miami, again at the suggestion of Inez, he meets with her first ex-husband, Marvin. Marvin is kind of a weasel, but seems to always have one eye on Inez, in hopes of getting her back, and agrees to help Carl out. Robert Downey Jr. plays Marvin and he plays Marvin with that certain charm and charisma that only RDJ has.  Marvin gives Carl a food truck. It’s a good thing he gave it to him too, because it’s a piece of junk.

Chef

This allows Carl and Percy the opportunity to work together and become closer. They tear apart, clean, and build the truck back up over the next couple of days. One of Carl’s former workers, Martin, shows up to help too. Martin (John Leguizamo) was inspired by Carl quitting his job to pursue his passion and followed his example. The three of them clean up the truck and come up with a menu. Carl has decided to cook Cuban food, because it is what he loves and made him famous in Miami.
So, the three of them begin selling food and are wildly successful. Percy is a tech savvy little guy and creates a Twitter account for their little enterprise, which draws attention. They decide to travel across the country, stopping in various cities along the way, and sell their food to food seekers in a variety of communities. It’s kind of neat too, because as they stop in different cities, they tweak the menu ever so slightly. They add a few new things to the menu or integrate a local favorite into their existing menu. For example, Carl would make his Cuban sandwiches with BBQ pork when in Texas. It was pretty cool.

This movie reminded me a lot of Little Miss Sunshine in a way. In was a small movie. It was very endearing and light. It’s funny, makes you feel good, and is totally harmless. If you have ever read any of my reviews, you now I am not drawn to movies that take place in “the real world” – I prefer escapism. I want to go to places I’ll never see, meet heroes and villains, and see things that only exist in our wildest dreams. However, there are a few comedy/dramas out there that catch my interest and are something I can pop in at any time and come away smiling. This is one of those movies.
A couple of things I have to point out. Sofia Vergara has divided people since hitting it big on Modern Family. Some people think she is hilarious, others think she is a little insulting. I know people who think she plays a fantastic caricature and have seen others who find it insulting. This movie did not have her portray the outrageous, but funny, sex bomb, the way Modern Family does. It’s not an award worth performance or anything, but I thought she did good playing the “straight man” for once.

The young man playing Percy was quite good in my opinion. I have never heard of Emjay Anthony, but I thought he was a very good, especially for a young actor. Child actors can be bad sometimes, which is natural given that they are new to the craft. But I thought he gave a heartfelt little performance.

Jon Favreau wrote, directed, produced, and starred in this movie. It obviously means something to him. He put a lot into it and it pays off. It’s a really nice little movie. His wore all the different hats well.
Jon Leguizamo plays a good sidekick or supporting character. Some people are just made to be certain things and he’s a really solid supporting actor.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on October 11, 2014.

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