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'Chef' review: Simplistic, R-rated, summer family comedy

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Chef

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If you’re looking for a film to inspire your summer fun, check out Jon Favreau’s latest, “Chef.” Half of the film is dedicated to a cross-country trip between father and son exploring regional cultures through their food and music. This film will inspire your own family road trip.

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Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) runs the kitchen in a restaurant for Riva (Dustin Hoffman). When an online food critic (Oliver Platt) is planning to rate Carl’s food, Carl plans an elaborate, creative dinner to show off with his fellow kitchen staff (Bobby Cannavale and John Leguizamo), but Riva wants to stick to their never-changing menu. After a drastically negative article, Carl is forced to change his life and follow his dream of running his own place. His ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara), talks him into an opportunity through her other ex-husband (Robert Downey, Jr.) to get a food truck where he can serve his Cuban inspirations. Together with his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), and sous chef Martin (Leguizamo), Carl drives his new truck across country to return home and unexpectedly rekindles his bond with his son and finds his confidence and passion again.

The beginning of “Chef” is a little rocky. Carl experiences Twitter for the first time and loses control of his feelings; his ignorance and reactions are silly. He responds to his hurt feelings rather than defending his limited situation. Once he accepts his food truck destiny, “Chef” becomes a warm and enjoyable, naturally-flowing film.

Jon Favreau wrote and directed “Chef” along with starring as the lead. He even contributed some footage of his cooking training in the credits. His warm persona is relatable for the audience and clearly worked to get a huge cast of talent to join his film, including the stars from his “Iron Man” films: Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlett Johansson. His onscreen and off-screen charm makes “Chef” a fantastic return as director after his disappointing “Cowboys & Aliens.”

“Chef” releases at the perfect time of the year to relate its subject matter. This is the time of year for open roads, adventure, and food trucks. “Chef” is a cultural experience of both food and music as its protagonist travels across the South and introduces his son to the specialties of each stop. The food is understandably highlighted and will make audiences salivate, but street and local music performances round out the experience.

Favreau has made another likeable family film, though aim for mature enough kids to handle language and suggestive dialogue since it is rated R. “Chef” feels real as all parents make some bad, or at least questionable, decisions. The second half makes up for the earlier flawed script and leaves you feeling a little lighter. There may be no better word to describe this film than “pleasant.”

Rating for “Chef:” B+

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.

“Chef” is currently playing at four theatres in Columbus, Gateway, AMC Lennox and Easton, and Drexel, but looks to widen its showings this weekend. For showtimes, click here.

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