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Iron Chef

Merrick Morton/Open Road Films

Chef (2014)

The film “Chef” heralds the glorious return to the big screen of food porn, a term once ascribed to “Babette’s Feast,” “Eat Drink Man Woman” and “Big Night” but now mostly relegated to the Cooking Channel. At a Tribeca Film Festival screening, the audience collectively let out an audible gasp at the sight of Aaron Franklin’s fresh-from-the-pit Texas barbecue oozing meat juices when sliced with a carving knife.

Jon Favreau directs and stars as Carl Casper, a washed-up chef who procures a food truck after clashing with his restaurant’s backer (Dustin Hoffman) over whether he should play it safe for the visit of a noted food blogger (Oliver Platt). All tatted up here like the stereotypical “Top Chef” contestant, it’s not at all surprising that Mr. Favreau made an appearance as a guest judge on that Bravo reality series’ New Orleans-set past season to plug this film.

Besides food porn, “Chef” also fits in the road movie category. After picking up the truck given as a favor by his ex-wife’s (Sofia Vergara) ex-husband (Robert Downey Jr.), Carl embarks on a cross-country trip from Miami to Los Angeles with his son (Emjay Anthony) and former cook (John Leguizamo).

“Chef” drags quite a bit and could benefit from pruning, especially with regard to its star-studded supporting cast — also featuring Scarlett Johansson as a maître d’— that frequently feels tangential and gratuitous. But it’s refreshing that Mr. Favreau commits to delivering a seemingly commercial premise in such a roundabout and counterintuitive way so that the bond between the career-driven father and the neglected child after some much-needed quality time comes off as organic and not at all forced.

The film transcends to something special — if only briefly — in a moment of silent reflection upon Carl’s return from the road trip. The contrived tearjerker that immediately ensues could almost be forgiven.


Opens on May 9 in New York and Los Angeles and on June 27 in Britain.

Written and directed by Jon Favreau; director of photography, Kramer Morgenthau; edited by Robert Leighton; production design by Denise Pizzini; costumes by Laura Jean Shannon; produced by Mr. Favreau and Sergei Bespalov; released by Open Road Films (United States) and Lionsgate (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Jon Favreau (Carl Casper), Sofia Vergara (Inez), John Leguizamo (Martin), Scarlett Johansson (Molly), Dustin Hoffman (Riva), Oliver Platt (Ramsey Michel), Bobby Cannavale (Tony), Amy Sedaris (Jen), Emjay Anthony (Percy) and Robert Downey Jr. (Marvin).


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