By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Foodies will have a field day savoring "Chef" (Open Road), a mouthwatering comedy-drama about one man’s obsession with his cooking and his clan.
Writer-director Jon Favreau, who also plays the title role, serves up an old-fashioned, heartwarming story, a labor of love that’s all the more refreshing since it sees family values and marriage triumph, despite all obstacles.
Carl Casper (Favreau) is having a midlife crisis. Although a successful chef at a trendy California restaurant, he’s frustrated by having to prepare the same dishes, over and over, as demanded by his boss, Riva (Dustin Hoffman).
His creative rut is noted by Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), an influential food critic and blogger, who sends a severe review into cyberspace.
Enraged, Carl decides to fight back, via Twitter, but soon learns the lesson of broadcasting too much information. A public confrontation with Ramsey goes viral on the Internet, and Carl loses his job.
A lifeline is thrown by his ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara). She’s wealthy and successful, but concerned that their young son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), is missing his father. So she invites Carl to join them on a business trip to Miami, where Carl got his start in the kitchen.
Once there, Carl is thrown another lifeline by Inez’s other ex-husband, Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.). Marvin offers Carl the opportunity to take charge of a rundown food truck as a way to reinvent himself and reignite his passion for food.
Joined by his former line cook, Martin (John Leguizamo), and with Percy in tow, Carl restores the vehicle, designs a Cuban-style menu, and sets out on the ultimate road trip.
Viewers beware: Don’t see "Chef" on an empty stomach. The real stars of the film are the delectable dishes Carl serves up, which may have you running to the nearest eatery before the closing credits end.
The film contains an implied nonmarital relationship, drug use, occasional profane and crude language and some mildly adult humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.