I think this means that John Leguizamo gets to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe… And maybe Sophia Vergara, too.
Why I Saw It: Other than watching movies, one of my favorite past times is cooking. While we’ve seen a few movies over the past decade about women who love to cook (Julie & Julia, and Waitress, just to name two), the fact that this one is about a guy who likes to cook, that was all the more reason for me to want to check it out. I’m also a big fan of Jon Favreau, who wrote, directed and stars in CHEF. That combination worked out really well for SWINGERS, another of my favorites, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt here. The fact that the film involved a few people from the Iron Man family portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was interesting to me as well.
Rating: 9.0 out of 10
Throughout the film, I kept waiting for the feel-good story to drop off into some sort of secondary conflict, or they would bond through facing adversity or tragedy. Luckily enough for viewers, Favreau didn’t try to shoe-horn that sort of thing into the second half of the movie.
With quite a few notable actors in the cast, I thought it might be a good idea to list them here and give my thoughts on their performances, because going into the film, I wasn’t sure what to expect:
Jon Favreau – He did a great job and was involved in probably every scene of the film. I don’t know if he actually cooked all the food we saw his character prepare, or whether there was a stand-in during the close-up portions, but whomever it was, they cooked a lot of food I’d like to be skilled enough to make.
Robert Downey Jr – For the three minutes he was on screen, he was entertaining, but the size of his role in the film was essentially just a cameo. He definitely garnered a laugh with at least half of everything he said, and his character was vital to the plot. The best part about him being involved in the film might be the “family” aspect it helped bring to the cast. Because there were a few people from the “Iron Man” family in this movie, you really get the idea that they’re friends behind the scenes, and that Robert Downey Jr took part in the film to help give his buddy’s film some extra gravity.
Scarlett Johansson – Her role was considerably larger than that of Downey Jr, though not as entertaining. Scarlett did fine in the relatively small role, but I wouldn’t suggest that she should be anyone’s primary motivation to see the film.
Dustin Hoffman – His role was just slightly bigger than that of Robert Downey Jr, but he gave serious credibility and weight to the role of the restaurant owner who is, somewhat understandably so, set in his ways and ends up firing Jon Favreau to set Act II into motion. He’s only in the film for about five minutes over the course of three scenes, but he plays his part pitch perfect.
Sophia Vergara – Having watched her work on Modern Family, I was looking forward to seeing what she would bring to this film. Her role wasn’t a particularly challenging one, and I have no complaints about her performance. She has some good comedic timing, but that wasn’t a skill required of her in this film.
John Leguizamo – I’m usually hit or miss on his performances, but I really liked what he added to the role. At least three times in the film I thought his character was going to take a direction which would’ve caused another source of conflict, but thankfully the script didn’t go that route. Leguizamo was an excellent part of the supporting cast and assisted in hooking us into the primary emotional plot point. In a story about the relationship between a father and his son, Leguizamo’s character could’ve felt like a third wheel, and perhaps to the joint credit of Favreau’s writing and Leguizamo’s acting, he was anything but extraneous.
The enterprising / entrepreneurial aspect of what Favreau does in the film was something that I could connect with, personally, so it was fun to take that journey. I also really enjoyed the way viral marketing worked its way into the film and how that was interwoven into the relationship between the father and son.
From a technical standpoint, I really enjoyed how they were able to portray the characters interacting with the Twitter universe, be it through the pop-up tweets or the other ways they incorporated it into the film. It could have very easily felt like an advertisement for the social media service, but it didn’t.
The Regrettable Aspects
The only thing I can point to as something I would change about the film is that the acting skills of the son could have been better. It’s not like in other films where the young actor’s lack of skills comparable to their co-stars is frustratingly obvious, but there were a couple times where it was noticeable.
Would I watch it again?
Absolutely. I don’t usually buy DVDs / Blu-rays, but this is a film which I’d be interested in watching frequently enough that I’m looking forward to owning a copy.
To Whom Would I Recommend It?
To anyone who likes cooking, road trips or father-son bonding films, this is a movie they’re likely to enjoy.
Note: This was the 73rd film I’ve seen this year. For more information on what I’ve been up to, check out the page for my Film Quest 2014.