Chef is successful as 115 minutes of food porn, more than it is as a comedy. Although, the scenario of old-school chef confronted by the constantly evolving world of social media does set up fun moments.
Considering the simple premise, the first 30 or so minutes of Jon Favreau’s Chef are unnecessary, or should have been boiled down to a montage. The pace drags and we have to grimace through awkward ad-libbed (I assume) flirtations between Favreau’s character Carl Casper and his head waitress, played by Scarlett Johansson. (They then return to his flat for some pre- or post-coital garlic pasta. Post, I hope, for both their sakes.) And then of course Dustin Hoffman is criminally underused as Casper’s boss.
Essentially, Favreau’s character is an exceptional chef, forced to make unexceptional food in a restaurant that’s constantly full but doesn’t impress the critics – especially one critic. A bad review leads to Twitter warfare and Casper finally gets the push he needs to become a better dad and better chef.
Despite being studded with A-lister cameos, like so many pickles in a Cuban sandwich, it’s Emjay Anthony, who plays Casper’s son Percy, that makes Chef worth watching. About halfway through, the film turns into a father-son buddy-come-road movie that showcases some sumptuous food and a kickass soundtrack. If you watched and enjoyed the underrated HBO show Treme you’ll enjoy some of the similarly decadent food shots and live music in this one.
The way this movie plays with social media and taps into the collective food lust popular right now makes it a fun ride, despite the self-indulgent start and occasionally clunky, boring dialogue.
Chef is out in NZ Cinemas from 8 May.
Reviewed by Rachael McKinnon