Pam Powell says 3 out of 4 stars.
The independent film "Chef" is playing locally just in time for Father's Day. "Chef," written, directed and starring Jon Favreau, is the first attempt since "Swingers" back in 1996 for this filmmaker in the "indie film" genre.
Between independent films, Favreau has been enjoying the executive production role in mainstream filmmaking with the likes of "Iron Man" and "The Avengers." In addition to Favreau, you'll recognize Sophia Vergara, Johnny Depp and Scarlett Johansson in this deliciously wonderful Father's Day film.
Carl Casper is an elite chef living and working in California. Restaurant critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), announces his future appearance at the restaurant which will make or break not only the restaurant but also the chef. Chef Casper decides to hit the creativity button, but his boss, Riva (Hoffman), puts a kaibosh on it all, enraging Casper.
The consequences are disasterously funny, but that means the chef must recreate himself. As this divorced dad who is out of touch with his young son, attempts a new journey along the road of life, the path gets peppered with situations that enable both father and son to grow and learn about each other.
The movie begins, ends and weaves in and out of the kitchen. We see appetizing ingredients, sliced skillfully, then magically constructed into culinary delights. You can almost smell the aroma of the decadent dishes as the meals are prepared. From the simplicity of a grilled cheese sandwich to creatively seasoned gourmet steak, everything is simply mouth-watering.
But the food is really just the side serving. The main entree is the relationship or lack there of, of Casper and his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony). Of course, Percy is adorable and precocious, everything the movie industry looks for — but it works. Percy wants nothing more than to be noticed by his father and to be included in his father's life.
Unfortunately, Percy isn't a top priority, initially. He accompanies his father to the farmer's market and wants to cook with him, but Percy is always brushed off. That is until "the moment." This "moment" is Carl's baptism into social media.
"Chef" is a sweet, charming and delicious story about a boy and his father. Using the vehicle of food, the story develops, albeit in a predictable way, that will make you laugh and give you hunger pangs at the same time. This might not be as novel as Favreau's "Swingers," but it is a film that will appeal to the crowds. The humorous situations between sous chefs, family, bosses,and food critics are quite funny, although at times a bit far fetched.
We also have the punctuated reality of the "older" generation's lack of knowledge of the techie world (aka Twitter) and the resulting consequences of ignorance. Think about it, if you're over 40, do you really "get" Twitter? I didn't think so.
The writing is entertaining, yet predictable as is the acting. Favreau is a believable chef with his robust form and personality as well as his chopping skills. Sophia Vergara is a bit over the top, but when isn't she? And let's admit one more thing: whenever Johnny Depp appears, it's just plain fun.
"Chef" finds humor in divorce and parenting while keeping the story entertaining which is quite a feat. Favreau tells a tale that will keep you interested; caring for each and every character, even when you know what's going to happen next. The end will be satisfying, but there is one thing that won't be satisfied — your appetite. No worries, though. Keep reading and you'll have some guidance in that area, too.
"Chef" is a "well-done" movie perfect for Father's Day. With some language, I would recommend this for kids over 17 with the R Rating. Anyone older than 17 will enjoy this scrumptiously funny film. A final note to sons (or daughters) who take their fathers to this film: Check out a recipe for a Cuban sandwich, purchase the ingredients, then upon your return from the film, recreate what you've just seen. Your dad will love you even more for it (and you'll thank me later).