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Favreau successfully returns to low-budget roots with ‘Chef’

Date: 10/17/2014

A fun, moving film that doesn’t have any explosions, sex or violence in it, but should hold your attention, is featured in this week’s film review column.


Jon Favreau has had an interesting career; he started in the indie film world as both an actor and a producer/director. Films such as “Swingers” and “Made” brought him to the attention of some film fans, but his success as the director of “Elf” made him mainstream.

Fast forward a few years and Favreau is now a big-budget action director. He helmed the under-appreciated “Cowboys and Aliens,” as well as the wildly successful “Ironman” and “Ironman 2.”

I enjoy his big budget work, but I really loved the fact he returned to a smaller scale film with “Chef.”

Favreau stars in the film as well as serving as its writer and director. He plays Carl, an accomplished chef stuck cooking a menu at a high-end restaurant that no longer interests him.

When he attempts to change the menu in order to impress a well-known food critic, his boss tells him to cook the established dishes and Carl receives an undeserved blistering and personal review. He walks from his job.

On top of this professional setback, he struggles to be the father he should be to his 10-year-old son. His ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) tries to encourage him to be a better dad, but Carl is too obsessed with his career troubles.

Only when a food truck enters into his life does Carl figure out his life.

This is a sweet movie about love – the love between a father and son and the love of good food. It’s a moving story of redemption as well. Carl isn’t a bad guy. He just needs his priorities reset.

Favreau has assembled an amazing cast for the film that includes Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt and a favorite of mine, John Leguizamo. Robert Downey Jr. even turns up in a small role.

My one criticism is that we are asked to believe that Carl, who is a little dumpy and nerdy, attracted the characters played by Johannsson and Vergara. My wife noticed this pretty immediately. It helps to be the guy casting the movie as well as playing the lead.

It also gives hope to all of us dumpy and nerdy guys!

It was a shame that this film did not receive a wider theatrical release than it did. It says something about the film industry that a guy with a track record such as Favreau can’t get the attention of the exhibitors.

This is a great film to discover on home video or video on demand.

Quick takes

There are two new DVD releases of summer films that maybe of interest to you.

While my aversion to Tom Cruise is well known among my movie pals, I have to admit that “Edge of Tomorrow,” his science fiction time travel movie was far more enjoyable than I ever thought it would be.

Cruise plays an arrogant public relations guy who is given the task to “sell” the success the earth is having against alien invaders.

When he is thrown into the battle as a combatant something happens that gives him the ability to live that day over when he dies.

He discovers one other person (the effective Emily Blunt) has this ability and only they can unravel the aliens’ weakness.

It’s epic science fiction action that holds your attention.

Another time travel movie “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is also now available. This latest entry in the X-Men franchise is the type of film that will completely twist any fan who is interested in maintaining story continuity between all of the films.

It’s not going to happen.

This film is about time travel and plays a bit loose with time in general. If that’s the kind of thing that drives you nuts, don’t watch this film.

If you’re willing to accept the story of how Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back into the 1970s in order to prevent the development of the mutant-hunting robots known as the Sentinels, then you’re going to have a good time.

There’s lots of chatter online about the next film in the series, although this movie feels like a culmination of the franchise.

Since it made money at the box office, I’m sure Hollywood executives would seek a way to alter the time line again to make another film.