'Chef': Food for thought, and plenty of laughs

Jon Favreau (right) shows the art of food-making to John Leguizamo (left) and Emjay Anthony.
Jon Favreau (right) shows the art of food-making to John Leguizamo (left) and Emjay Anthony.
Posted: May 16, 2014

IN "CHEF," we learn that revenge is a dish best served never.

The lesson comes courtesy of a trendy chef named Carl Casper (Jon Favreau, directing himself and some pals) whose hip restaurant has reached a stodgy phase.

A scathing review (from Oliver Platt) causes a fuming Carl to roast the critic in person, an unhinged confrontation that goes viral, costing Carl his job.

"Chef" then converts to a road movie - Carl takes his neglected son (Emjay Anthony) on the road in a revamped food truck, falling in love again with cooking and with his neglected son.

All of this happens at the urging of his gorgeous and helpful ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) who gets a former boyfriend (Robert Downey Jr.) to put up the cash.

As you can see, it's a fable - happy divorces, helpful rival boyfriends, obedient children, and, most magical of all, critics with influence.

Some of it is a little too hard to believe. Scarlett Johansson, Carl's hostess, comforts him in a moment of need, leading them to the verge of a kiss.

"I thought we agreed we wouldn't do this," she says.

When?

Why?

Who would enter into such an agreement?

But mostly the movie's gossamer mood works. Especially when Favreau adds a little sweat and muscle. Carl transmits to his son his love of cooking, but something else, too - the essential value of work, and these scenes of apprenticeship play very well.

In turn, the boy helps dad understand the Internet - that the same retweeting that destroyed his career can be put to better use. Like branding his itinerant food truck as it makes a culinary journey from Miami to New Orleans to Austin, localizing local cuisine along the way.

Is music the food of love? Here, food is the music of love, which conquers all. It even washes away the angry residue of that long-ago bad review, and turns antagonists into allies.

Which seems to indicate that Favreau has gotten over "Cowboys versus Aliens."


Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel

Online: ph.ly/Movies

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