dir-scr Jon Favreau
prd Jon Favreau, Sergei Bespalov, Karen Gilchrist
with Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, Jose C Hernandez, Gloria Sandoval
release US 9.May.14, UK 25.Jun.14
14/US 1h55
Not too spicy, please: Leguizamo, Anthony and Favreau

vergara cannavale johansson
east end film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Chef Even within the foodie genre, this film is shamelessly delicious-looking, playing on the street-food craze to parade a range of tantalising regional dishes across the screen. But this is also one of Favreau's strongest films as both a director and actor, with a loose structure and easy-going charm that makes it perfectly undemanding entertainment.

When the owner (Hoffman) of an established West L.A. eatery refuses to let chef Carl (Favreau) change the menu, an influential critic (Platt) trashes him as tired and predictable. In the ensuing Twitter war, Carl furiously quits his job, taking colleague Martin (Leguizamo) with him to refurbish a food truck in Miami and get back to his roots as he drives back across the country to California. This also gives him a chance to reconnect with Percy (Anthony), his pre-teen son with sassy ex Inez (Vergara).

Nothing much actually happens in the plot, and there isn't a single surprise along the way. Instead, this is the kind of movie that holds our interest through the sheer charisma of its cast, and they have plenty of that. Favreau looks like a completely different actor than we've ever seen: a distracted man who's likeable because we know he's going to inadvertently rediscover himself. His chemistry with the rest of the cast is relaxed and engaging, including nice side roles for Cannavale and Johansson (as work colleagues) and a nutty turn for Downey (as Inez's ex).

But of course the food is the real star of the show, and Favreau has a great time showing us Mexican-themed dishes in California, Cuban favourites in Florida, deep-fried delicacies in Louisiana and barbecue in Texas. Yes, this is a movie about the joy of eating, and everything looks so tasty that audiences will pounce ravenously upon the first food truck they see after the screening. Although vegans may want to look away.

Favreau also infuses the film with a strange naivete, as if it's set in a parallel universe where no one has yet discovered the wonders of street food, and burly, tattooed chefs are allowed to be clueless about social media. Yes, it's quaint and simplistic, and the journey these characters take is exactly what we expect it to be, unchallenging and warmly satisfying. In other words, this is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 18.May.14

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