‘Chef’: an appetizing yet rote tale of love and food trucks
A three-star movie review: A labor of love for Jon Favreau, “Chef” is a sweet, but ultimately rote, story of a man finding his bliss by starting a food truck.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Chef,’ with Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr., Emjay Anthony. Written and directed by Favreau. 115 minutes. Rated R for language, including some suggestive references. Several theaters.
If “Chef” were a musical, you’d walk out humming the food — and you might end up doing that anyway. This pleasant comedy (a labor of love for Jon Favreau, who wrote, directed, produced and starred) is the sort of movie that features loving close-ups of bacon, a fair amount of screen time devoted to the making of a really stellar-looking grilled-cheese sandwich, and a scene involving spaghetti and garlic that will make you want to go home, immediately, and whip up some spaghetti with garlic. (I didn’t do that, but am regretting that choice.) Heed my words: Do not go to this movie hungry ... or, if you must, be prepared to head immediately post-credits to the nearest kitchen.
Outside of the food, what we have here is a nice if unremarkable tale of a man finding his bliss. (That seems to be a theme this month, along with “Million Dollar Arm”; which sets things up nicely for a Hamm-and-bacon double feature at the multiplexes.) Chef Casey (Favreau), when we meet him, is toiling at a fancy L.A. restaurant, whose demanding owner (Dustin Hoffman) won’t let him be creative with the food. After a dust-up involving a big-deal food blogger (such things happen in the food world, I guess), Casey quits in a huff — and soon is blissfully happy launching a food-truck endeavor, assisted by his young son (Emjay Anthony) and grill-chef pal (John Leguizamo).
This little story is worlds away from Favreau’s recent fare (which includes “Cowboys and Aliens” and the first two “Iron Man” movies) and the transition isn’t entirely smooth: “Chef” has a few too many cheery montage scenes, and you wonder why Favreau would go to the trouble to sign Scarlett Johansson and then give her nothing to do. (Robert Downey Jr. — Iron Man himself — also turns up briefly, offering coconut water and reminding us that every movie is improved by a touch of RDJ.) But it’s a likable movie that leaves its audience feeling good ——and sometimes, like spaghetti with garlic, that’s as good as a feast.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org