Writer-director Jon Favreau of Elf, Iron Man, and now The Jungle Book fame penned, directed, and stars in Chef, a dramedy about a fiercely passionate man named Carl Casper who quits his job at a fancy restaurant and starts selling Cuban sandwiches out of his own food truck. Having been publicly lambasted by online food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) for lack of creativity in his restaurant menu, Carl starts a Twitter fight with the writer that culminates in a loud and public spectacle, videos of which also go viral. Struggling with his professional failures, Carl is encouraged by work friends Martin (John Leguizamo) and Molly (Scarlett Johansson), as well as ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara), to rebuild. At the same time, Carl’s precocious young son Percy (Emjay Anthony), who has long been neglected by his father, forces Carl to deal with his own shortcomings as a family man. Amy Sedaris, channelling her Princess Caroline character from BoJack Horseman, and Favreau’s Marvel buddy Robert Downey Jr. have brief cameos.
Chef suffers from trying to do too many things at once. At times, it is fine dining food porn and a survey of the effect that social media has on the food industry; at other times, it is a father-son drama coupled with that all-American dream of a white man pursuing his passion. After the clash with the food critic, the film loses all sense of conflict. Many scenes also feel like filler and stretched-out jokes about snapshot-loving cops or the soothing powers of cornstarch fall flat. Shoe-horned in is a half-hearted rekindling of romance between Carl and Inez, who end up married again by the closing scenes. Annoyingly, the only function of the two major female characters, Inez and Molly, is to be beautiful women who keep telling the ornery, overweight protagonist that they want him to be happy. Chef is very much a male-fantasy with some pretty shots of food and a trite story about a man passing his love of cooking to his son.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 sugar-dusted beignets