HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:83
Passion projects are nothing new in the world. We’ve all had those moments where we want to band together with a group of friends and do something that WE liked, and not what was going to make us the most amount of money. I mean, who HASN’T looked at their job at one point in their career or the other and wished they could do what they wanted to do, what made them happy and not just the whim of their boss? Creative people are especially susceptible to this feeling, and Jon Favreau has finally gotten to the point where he’s uncomfortable with his role in modern Hollywood. So, he did what a lot of other directors have done, at one point or another, and gathered up his acting buddies to create a passion project that actually allows for him NOT to have guns, knives, explosions and suits of iron to create a good story.
Shot on a shoestring budget (by Hollywood standards), “Chef” is a tale of redemption and finding out what makes you truly happy in life. Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a top level chef working at a great restaurant, but in no way is he happy. He’s under the thumb of a boss who won’t give him the freedom to do what he really wants - to cook what he thinks is good - and that little spark of inspiration is slowly dying inside him. After food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) writes a scathing review of his work, Carl goes off the deep end, and in a fit of rage gets himself fired. It doesn’t help that he has a bit of a strained relationship with his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) and his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara), but now he’s stuck in a cruddy apartment with no job, and no job prospects due to his tantrum being captured and put up on social media. A pariah among chefs, has nowhere to go until Inez pushes him to finally go out and work for himself, to open up a food truck and create WHAT he wants, WHEN he wants it.
The minute he opens that food truck, the support comes in spades, as his best friend and sous chef, Martin (John Leguizamo), from his old job comes in to back him up. Carl also figures that if he’s going to start up a mobile unit, he should take his son along during the summer in an effort to mend some of the bridges that have been torn down over the years. What starts out as a little effort in finding oneself becomes something much larger as Martin, Percy, and Carl gain actual happiness from doing what they love. No bosses, no restrictions, just the joy and passion of cooking for other people on the open road. Percy is a boy of this generation and knows how to handle the tech side, and soon his tweets, the very thing that destroyed Carl’s career as a chef, becomes the red carpet for his return to fame and happiness.
I can’t tell you how delighted I am with this movie. I thought it was going to be enjoyable after the positive word of mouth, but I was sideswiped with how amazingly fun the ride is. It’s a drama at its core, with a slice of comedy and heart, but there is no roller coaster of emotions, and situations that call for “twists” in the movie. Instead, the film starts out at a low point in Carl’s life and just builds from there, culminating in a large peak finale. There is no time to wonder when the bombshell hits, as the climb is really what counts. Emotions start out low and climb and climb and climb, until you are just sitting there with a huge smile on your face, enjoying the infectious fun that the actors are having on screen. The chemistry just oozes off the screen, as you can tell these actors really love working together and really love each other. Jon’s passion for going back to good filmmaking, not just blockbuster movies, is not just a metaphor, for we see his frustrations and his sheer joy at making this film in every line and every action that Carl Casper takes. This joy is, as I said, infectious and very catching as we see Carl and his new family of friends and blood create something new out of nothing. It’s a story that we can all relate to, as it’s something that most of us have wanted in some way or another over the years. A true story for the masses.
These types of stories are nothing new, but still, this is by far the most recent success in modern film making, as a director and character reinvent themselves and gain back a piece of themselves that they lost. The all-star cast works very well together, and it’s fantastic that Favreau’s friends are all distinguished actors that can add so much to the film. As much as we all expected Robert Downey Jr. to play a huge role on screen due to the front picture, he’s actually only in it for about 5 minutes as a supporting character (and a rather crazy one at that). The same can be said for Scarlett Johansson and even Oliver Platt. The main characters are really Jon, Emjay, Sofia and John Leguizamo as they bond together. ALL of the characters, no matter how big or how small just mesh well and their screen time, or lack of screen time, is in no way detrimental to the film’s success in any way. This is one film that I didn’t think would be this good, and easily ranks up there with my favorites of the summer along with “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier”.
Rated R for language, including some suggestive references
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=27657[/img]“Chef’s” 2.40:1 AVC transfer is a great, if not close to stunning, hi-def transfer that dazzles on Blu-ray and DVD alike. The film is mainly shot on Arri Alexa cameras and looks as pristine and squeaky clean as you’d expect considering the source, full of bright and beautiful locals and great color saturation. I was expecting an almost OVERLY bright image, due to the fact that they were in high light areas of Miami etc, but the film’s natural color palette is kept in check, looking simply superb. Detail is extremely well-defined and clarity is through the roof. Occasionally, I noticed that the bright sunny Miami environment made the image look a bit soft every once in a while, but only in certain angles and lighting conditions. Those nice blacks look inky and dark amidst the backdrop of Little Havana, and I could not detect any digital artifacting or crushed blacks. Hovering just on the verge of being a 5/5 transfer, I have to say that it should please just about everyone and every type of display.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=27665[/img]The disc only houses one language track and that’s the original 5.1 DTS-HD MA, and it is a generally pleasing audio experience. The film is mainly dialog driven, so the same caveats that apply to most dialog driven movies applies to this one as well. Dialog is great, and locked up to those front 3 channels, with some nice panning effects for the musical numbers. You can hear the piano in the right side of the screen and the next moment the left front is blasting out a spicy trumpet accompaniment with pinpoint accuracy. LFE is mild, but it complements the Cuban themed music quite nicely, adding a thick, weighty feel to it. Surround usage is where it starts to get a bit disappointing, as they are used mainly for the music and a few ambient effects - the curse of the drama, so to speak. The only really annoying thing that I noticed in the mix was that there was a fairly large range issue between the upbeat Cuban musical numbers and the rest of the track; it doesn’t really bother you too much if you’re able to listen at reference level, but it makes for some tricky volume shifting in more moderate listening modes.
• Director's Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
I love being surprised by passion projects, and while I had heard the positive buzz surrounding “Chef”, I wasn’t truly prepared for how much I really enjoyed the movie. It’s warm, upbeat and never yoyo’s around with your emotions, keeping them rising and rising throughout the film to happy ending. Never a dull moment in a movie filled with low key drama, but a sensation of just having fun with the actors, and the characters on screen, who very obviously loved working together as a unit. The video is amazing and the audio is quite good itself, and combined with my love of the film, I have to give this a very hearty two thumbs up and my full recommendation.
Starring: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Written By: Jon Favreau
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 115 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 30th, 2014
Buy Chef Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Must Watch
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