- May 9, 2003
Chef cooks up quite a good meal on Blu-ray with a release that presents this good-natured and surprisingly affecting family restaurant comedy in a very appealing light. Don’t let the R rating fool you. Other than some strong language here and there, this is actually a movie that could be enjoyed by even young teens with their parents for a good family movie night. The movie follows the adventure of chef Carl Casper (writer/director Jon Favreau) as he goes into the food truck business to try to find his creative spark once again. Helping him out in the quest is his friend (and assistant) Martin (John Leguizamo) and his son Percy (Emjay Anthony) – and the three guys go on a road trip that stretches from coast to coast. This is not a big-budget extravaganza – it’s a smaller-scale piece about Casper and his family, and lots of good food along the way. Not knowing what to make out of this before viewing it, I confess being pleasantly surprised. I have a feeling that viewers who haven’t heard about this movie before will enjoy it as much as I did. For this reason, this title is Recommended – especially for those who may have ignored it when it hit store shelves on September 30th.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 480P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 55 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: ABC, 1
Release Date: 09/30/2014
Chef is a surprisingly entertaining movie, and one that is actually more family-oriented than its R-Rating would initially lead a viewer to think. At its most basic, it’s a road movie that shows how Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) starts up a food truck operation (making Cuban sandwiches) to find the creative spark that’s been absent from his well-paid work at a Brentwood restaurant. By the time he’s done, his whole family has gotten involved, and he’s gone from Miami back to Los Angeles with his truck, sampling as much local cuisine as possible along the way. There’s more to the story than that, but that’s really all you need to know to start watching it. That, and the fact that Jon Favreau and his team really enjoy well-prepared food. As someone who has had serious reservations about Favreau’s movies in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to have really had a good time here. It is my hope that viewers who haven’t tried this one out will do so. This movie is Recommended for Rental and Purchase.SPOILERS: Just in terms of being a movie about chefs, restaurants, food trucks and the love of good food, Chef is a lot of fun to watch as well as holding a few subtle touches that casual viewers may not pick up. There are plenty of lovingly indulgent shots of Casper preparing custom dishes, apparently helped out quite a bit by star chef Roy Choi. It should be noted that Favreau’s character sports arm tattoos that look very similar to Choi’s – making it all the easier to cut between the two men when it comes to close ups of chopping, mincing and various modes of food preparation. There’s a slightly stronger opening sequence about what a restaurant does with a pig before we get to the point that we see the meal on our plate, but after that, the movie settles into many sequences of what I can happily refer to as food glamour. Nestled within that is a strong in-joke for chefs – as Casper finds himself making a series of dishes for his Brentwood restaurant that are definitely the go-to ideas these days, but which more adventurous chefs will cringe at having to prepare over and over again – culminating with the inevitable hot lava chocolate cake. (Favreau and Choi note in their commentary when the list of dishes is read off by an unhappy Casper to his staff, they could hear groans from an early audience of chefs.) Once Casper quits his position at the restaurant and moves into the food truck idea, things get more interesting – as we see what it takes to refurbish and clean one of these rolling restaurants, including some of the unhappier parts of that job.MORE SPOILERS: When it comes to both the cast and the writing, there’s a refreshing sense of free thinking in this movie, as well as a surprising amount of honesty. In the case of the latter, Favreau the writer openly admits to his own issues with his weight. In the script, there’s a fairly nasty food critic review of Casper’s work at the restaurant that speculates that his significant weight gain must be due to his eating all the meals sent back to the kitchen. To his credit, Favreau himself reads this review aloud, as a clear signal to viewers that he’s fully aware of where his weight is and how it got there. In the case of the casting, there are some truly inspired casting choices that play out fairly well. Scarlett Johansson shows up in a cameo early on as the front-of-house woman at the Brentwood restaurant who happens to be having an affair with Favreau’s Casper and she’s clearly having a ball. (In the commentary, Favreau both acknowledges that he’s “hitting above his weight class” by pairing himself with her, and tells a story about how she responded to both his and Roy Choi’s cooking during one scene of the shoot.) Dustin Hoffman turns in a great cameo as the owner of the Brentwood restaurant, topped only by a quick cameo by Robert Downey, Jr., who nearly steals the entire film with a single scene midway through the show. And both John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale, both known for playing menacing types in multiple films, are clearly having a great time playing assistant chefs with essentially good hearts. (There is something to be said about getting to play a good guy for a change. Of course, Cannavale’s role is that of a bit of a weasel, but at least he’s not actually killing anyone here…) The movie does offer a major sweetener at the end, in that it gives Casper and his family a supremely improbable happy ending – but at least that ending is consistent with the tone Favreau has maintained throughout, and with the overriding theme of the movie: if you go with your instincts and follow your dreams, in the end, you will get somewhere.FINAL SPOILERS: It’s that theme that really explains what this movie is about and why Favreau chose to make it at this time. If you scratch a little below the surface of this movie, you’ll find this isn’t a movie about cooking and food after all. (Although both provide a lovely metaphor for what Favreau is really examining…) This is a movie about creativity. It’s a movie about Jon Favreau’s wish to make a movie that wasn’t about high budgets and superheroes but rather about the very fabric of WHY people make movies in the first place. To accomplish that, he wound up working at a very low budget, considering the levels he’s been playing for the past ten years. And he and the cast agreed to make the movie in the simplest of conditions – something he could readily remember from his early days of making movies like Swingers. The journey of Carl Casper back to basics is the same journey Jon Favreau was making here – trying to find the fun in telling a simple story with people he enjoyed working with rather than spending 200 million dollars on a tentpole movie that might have very little to actually say about anything. This movie’s indie-movie status parallels Casper’s work with his food truck – and one could say that both have succeeded at about the same level. Casper is able to eventually parlay his truck back into an interesting restaurant, while Favreau has been receiving favorable notices pretty much everywhere for having the tenacity to make this movie in spite of everyone telling him he should be making Iron Man 5 instead. The sheer joy of the performances here speaks to the interest the guys here had for this project, and the rich satisfaction you can hear from Favreau in his commentary speaks to what can come from trying to do something on your own rather than listening to the guys with the funding every time. Yes, Chef is a movie about cooking and ingredients and originality – but that metaphor has to do with many things outside of the kitchen.Chef was released on September 30th on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray includes the movie in high definition picture and sound, as well as a commentary and about 10 ½ minutes of deleted scenes. The Blu-ray also includes the DVD edition in the packaging, along with instructions for downloading a digital copy.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Chef is presented in a 2.40:1 1080p AVC encode (@ an average 30 mbps) that presents a variety of environments, flesh tones and textures, particularly of the many specialty dishes, in thrilling high definition. This wasn’t a high budget production, but the imagery here looks just fine, as does the transfer.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
Chef has an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix (@ an average 4.3 mbps, going up to 5.3 mbps in the bigger moments), with the bigger sounds really coming from the frequent use of songs and music in the surrounds. This is mostly a movie that lives in the front channels for the dialogue, which is appropriate given the scale of the story.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Chef comes with a fairly small amount of extras – just a commentary and a few deleted scenes. One could wish for a more detailed examination of the cooking classes that were involved or the road shoot that was done here, or perhaps Favreau’s work to get this project off the ground. This is one case where the amount of extras provided actually leaves the viewer wanting MORE.Commentary with Jon Favreau and Roy Choi – (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This scene-specific commentary has Favreau and star chef Roy Choi watching the movie with the viewer. Both take time to discuss the cooking seen on camera, and which times it’s Roy’s hands at work and which times it’s Favreau. Favreau is quite honest throughout about what it took to get this movie made, and Choi is straightforward about how much of the movie is accurate or not about the work it takes to keep a food truck enterprise going. This is a fun commentary to listen to, just to enjoy the two personalities bounce off of each other.Deleted Scenes (7 Scenes Total, 10:31, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Seven deleted scenes are presented in high definition, some of which are simply extensions of existing scenes that wound up in shorter form in the theatrical cut. There’s nothing particularly crucial here, but there are certainly plenty of fun character moments.DVD – The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD edition of the movie, presenting it in standard definition with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English (@448 kbps). The DVD includes the commentary and the deleted scenes from the Blu-ray, and also has a preview menu that includes trailers for Side Effects, Jobs, Sabotage, Killer Elite, Hit & Run and Home Front.Digital/Ultraviolet Copy – The packaging has an insert that contains instructions for downloading a digital or ultraviolet copy of the movie. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French for the film itself, as well as for the special features. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference.
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Chef looks and sounds great on Blu-ray, and the movie itself is one of the refreshing surprises of 2014. Fans of Jon Favreau are guaranteed to enjoy this movie, as are fans of Chef Roy Choi. More casual viewers are likely to find themselves having a much better time here than they would have expected. I encourage people to give this movie a chance if they have not already done so. This movie is heartily Recommended for rental or purchase.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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