Chef – The Word of Mouth Foodie Film that Could have been the Family Film of the Summer

Stars Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony and John Leguizamo in Chef

Stars Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony and John Leguizamo in Chef

Jon Favreau’s film Chef opened in theaters May 9, 2014, and it is still in theaters today, performing solidly against more intensely marketed summer block buster fair.  So far it has brought in almost $26 million, not bad for an independent film.  Word of mouth has brought adult audiences to the film in much the way that it did for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in the summer of 2012.

I was one of the people who plopped down the twelve bucks to see it and was happy I did.  I am glad the film has done as well as it has.  It could have done so much better.

On coming out of theater amid a crowd of middle-aged film buffs and food lovers, I thought to myself this film is about 50 f-words and two short scenes away from being the family film of the summer.  This could have been a +$100 million dollar film and a tremendous gift to audiences.

Still in Theaters.   Dont' go hungry.

Still in Theaters.
Don’t go hungry.

In the film, chef Carl Casper (played by writer/director Jon Favreau) has an angry melt-down at a harsh food critic in the middle of the restaurant in front of his employer (played by Dustin Hoffman) and a room full of customers.   The chef is fired and left without prospects for his career.  At the same time, he has been the stereotypic neglectful divorced dad, arriving up late to pick-up his son (Emjay Anthony), not showing up for events.  At the suggestion of his ex-wife, played by Sophia Vergara, he starts a food truck business, involving his friends (including one played by the great John Leguizamo) and more importantly, his son.  They drive the truck from Miami to LA, cooking all the way.

The film is not a deep story but an enjoyable father-son, on the road, rags to riches, buddy film.  People who love any of these will love this movie, but they have to be over 18.  This film has an R rating, for language, a mild drug scene and some crude references.  Yes, most kids have seen and heard worse, but also yes, there are parents who still will not consciously choose to expose their children to these, especially when paying movie theater prices.

If the language had been tempered just a little, and a few scenes altered this could have been a hit family film in a summer where the cineplex has not offered much to parents with children.  A filmmaker with the talent of John Favreau, (IronMan, Elf, upcoming Disney Junglebook)  could have made this as real as it was but with language that would have made for a more inclusive audience.

I wish he had, because I would have loved to take my niece, who in her early teens is a fan of the food channel and loves cooking.  I encounter more and more kids who tell me they want to be a chef when they grow up.  It would have been great to send them and their parents to a movie about a chef in the process of growing up himself.

Instead their parents and grandparents will go alone and they are in for a treat.


The New Evangelization and Hollywood

July Prayer and Pasta  Fr  Ed Benioff Elizabeth Salazar PilarwebLast week at Family Theater’s Prayer and Pasta gathering, Fr. Ed Benioff, the new Director of New Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, spoke to the crowd of about 50 young professionals about the New Evangelization and Hollywood.

Fr. Ed, born in Hollywood, grew up with a passion for art and beauty.  Fr. Ed’s perspective is that the New Evangelization is not just more programs or something extra to be done.  It is not primarily a set of books or lectures.  Rather it is simply opening ourselves and others to grace working through us and to deepen our relationship with God.

Fernando Duran Mary Colette MastellerwebGod wants to become a part of our lives, to love us and then use us to radiate that love out to others.  When we pray, we don’t pray for God’s sake, but for our sake.  Prayer reminds us to slow down and be mindful that we are loved infinitely and personally. God adores us:  praying reminds us of this.

Fr. Ed quoted Mother Teresa, “Do something beautiful with your life.”  He continued, “The most important thing that you can create in this world is you. Your soul is the most significant thing that you can cultivate.”  When the world sees and appreciates the beauty of a person, a rite, a piece of music or a work of art, they will be also drawn to the deeper implications to ideas of truth and goodness.

July Prayer and Pasta  Fr  David Guffey CSC MichaelwebAs young people in the entertainment industry, it may sometimes seem impossible to both create beautiful things and pay rent; to both pray and maintain an expected level of professionalism. Christ’s call to “pick up your cross and follow me” is an invitation to take on this challenge, most especially for those in the entertainment industry. Fr. Ed said, “You in the entertainment industry have a special call to make beautiful art and allure people into the true and the good through the beautiful.”

Radiate LA is a great resource for young Catholics in Los Angeles. Check out and their events pages for more information.

He showed us this clip from Fr. Barron on evangelizing through beauty.


Each month, young Catholics in the entertainment industry gather for prayer, music, and dinner at Family Theater Productions on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. If you or someone you know would be interested in joining our mailing list, please send an email to

You Never Know Where Your Heart Will Lead You (How to Train Your Dragon 2)

How_to_Train_Your_Dragon_2_Poster(Special “thanks” to my daughter, Madelyn, who helped me write this post)

You can never go wrong if you follow your heart, even if you aren’t sure where your heart will take you.  I think that this is the important lesson that you get from How to Train Your Dragon 2.  I was a little concerned when I heard that there was going to be a sequel to Dragon; you see, the first is what I consider to be the best animated feature in recent memory (apologies to all of the Frozen fans).  My fears were unfounded, however, since this movie is in a lot of ways better than the first.  There is a much deeper, somewhat darker, story line, and the animation and color palette is exquisite.  This is not a simple movie by any stretch of the imagination: as a matter of fact, there is a lot going on in this movie.  Stripped to its barest foundations, this is a movie about discovering who you are and trusting in who you are meant to be.

We catch up with Hiccup soon after his father, Stoic, has announced that he expects Hiccup to be chief after he steps down. This sits a little uneasily with Hiccup, and he and Toothless take off for a little flying practice.  He is afraid to face the person he is meant to be, he is afraid that he might have to grow up and that when he does, he might not be able to be the person his father expects him to be (ohow-to-train-your-dragonr suspects that he already is).  Most of us can relate to this fear, and maybe even to Hiccup’s initial reaction:  he refuses to face it.  While out with Toothless, he learns that there is a group of men who are corralling dragons for a mysterious man named “Drago.”  Stoic has a history with this man and battens down the hatches while Hiccup decides to try to find him and convince him that dragons are not the creatures most fear them to be.  What Hiccup doesn’t realize is that while he thinks he is running away from his destiny, he is actually running right into it (obviously he has not read any of the Harry Potter books).  It is at this point that Astrid tells him that he has to follow his heart.  The more he embraces this idea, the more his destiny becomes clear to him…but at a cost.

How_to_Train_Your_DragonmotherThe other part of the story that I really loved focused on Hiccup’s long lost mother, who had been thought dead, but who had spent the last two decades living with dragons…sort of a Jane Goodall of the Vikings.  In a very touching scene, Stoic sees his lost wife for the first time in almost twenty years.  While we – and she – expect him to be furious when he sees her, he tenderly strokes her cheek.  His love for her has not diminished even though he, too, has undergone a substantial transformation.  Whereas the old Stoic would have been furious with the fact that she left him to care for dragons, there is no anger and he now just sees a person he loves and has missed.  They pick up where they left off and make plans to retire together in Berk.  As Stoic would attest, you are never too old to change.

This movie is the second in a planned trilogy and is built well on the characters and relationships established in the first.  It is a film about growth and change:  You can either fight it or accept it, but in the end change will happen.  Dragon 2 illustrates that if you follow your heart and do what is right, then change (some of which is inevitable) is not bad.  Hiccup and his friends still have a ways to go, but they are learning to trust each other and to trust their own hearts.  Each of them is growing into who they are meant to be in their world. If only we could all realize the same, we would all be a lot better off.

Disney’s Maleficent Brings a New Twist to the Fairy Tale

auroraandphilpwebFairy Tales are a staple of childhood, especially the animated Disney versions.  They are stories of a courageous hero/heroine who overcome their fears to do what is right and defeat the villain.  And what little girl doesn’t dream of being a Princess?

Disney’s recent release Maleficent is a Fairy Tale with a Twist.  It’s the story of Sleeping Beauty, but from the point of view of the villain, Maleficent.  While it is an entertaining and creative twist on the Disney favorite, be aware that it is not the Fairy Tale you grew up with.maleficentweb

Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast as the lead heroine/villainess.  That’s right…she’s both.  This is the story about how Maleficent becomes a villain.  The film explores her back story and we discover the reason she made the choice to become evil.  Which leads us to question if she is really evil at all.

The film does a good job of exploring the pain and consequences that our actions can have on others, especially when we choose evil.

mothermaleficentwebThe film also shows how the unconditional love of a child can melt even the most hardest of hearts.  Audiences will appreciate the maternal love that grows in the heart of Maleficent and the mother/daughter relationship that develops between her and Aurora.


Credit: The DisneyWiki

Credit: The DisneyWiki

While there are some good messages in the film, I also found there to be a problematic one.  What happened to the Prince?  Unfortunately, there is not one good male character in the film (I’m not counting the sidekick to Maleficent as he princephilipwebis technically a crow).  While Disney has given us great Princesses, they have also given us great Princes…Prince Charming, Prince Naveen, Prince Adam, Prince Eric and of course Sleeping Beauty’s Prince Philip (just to name a few).  But in Maleficent, the male characters are presented as either evil, corrupt, or (in the case of Prince Philip) completely useless.  Not exactly the message that needs to be presented in regards to men.

If you want to see this film with your family, be aware of what you are going to see.  It’s entertaining and the costumes are quite spectacular.  Angelina Jolie is fantastic in the lead role.  However, some parts may be a little scary for younger viewers.  If, however, older kids want to see it, it’s a good idea for the parents to go with them so that they can discuss the themes that the film presents.




frdavidFr. David Guffey, C.S.C. has been named the new National Director here at Family Theater Productions.  We could not be more excited!  Fr. Guffey comes with years of experience in the film and television industry, including a Masters in Film and Television from Loyola Marymount University and several years as our Head of Production.

He has many credits here with us at Family Theater, including several of our Manifest Mysteries series…”Carrying On”, “You Will See”, “Finding Mary”, and “Assumptions”.  He also has spearheaded efforts to increase our presence on the internet by creating content for our Youtube page, social media, and our ministry websites.

As National Director he will be responsible for all activities of Family Theater Productions, both media production and outreach.  Our outreach efforts to young Catholics and other Catholics in the entertainment industry includes Prayer & Pasta, Bible Study, a weekly Holy Hour, daily Rosary, daily Mass, and spiritual direction.

We are very excited about the future here at Family Theater Productions with Fr. Guffey leading the way.  If you are interested in attending any of our events, be sure to check out the calendar on our website.

Moms’ Night Out…A Great Family Movie for Mother’s Day Weekend

William Ross Wallace was praising motherhood when he wrote his famous poem with the words “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” 

And so it does.

Motherhood is the most important job that any woman will have during her life.  It’s also one of the most under-appreciated.  This Mother’s Day weekend, Tri-star Pictures, wants you to know they appreciate all the Mom’s out there with the release of the new film, Moms’ Night Out.

momswebMoms’ Night Out is a delightful, fun, clean, and entertaining comedy about the ups and downs of raising a family.  Allyson, played by the charming Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy), loves her husband, loves her kids, and loves raising her family.  But sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming.  Needing some time to recharge, she plans a ladies night with two other Mom’s who also could use a night out.  Leaving the kids with their husbands, they embark on an evening filled with adult conversation and fine dining.  However, things don’t go quite as they had planned.  Sarah Drew gives a great performance as a woman who just wants to be the best Mom she can be but wonders if she’s good enough.  I think many Moms can relate.

Filling out the wonderful cast is Sean Astin (Goonies, Rudy, Lord of the Rings) as Allyson’s supportive husband.  The always fantastic, Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond, The Middle), gives a fun performance as Sondra the Pastor’s wife who is dealing with “the teenage years” of her own daughter.  Country star, Trace Adkins, delivers great comedic timing as the imposing-yet-lovable tattoo artist, Bones.

tatoo desk guywebEven though the big names in the cast did a great job, my favorite character was the Tattoo Desk Guy played by Manwell Reyes.  Those scenes had me laughing hard!  Apparently, Manwell’s day job is not acting.  He is the lead singer of the Dove Award-winning Christian hip-hop band Group 1 Crew.  Maybe he should start adding comedic actor to his resume as he was hilarious and really stole those scenes.

Moms’ Night Out is a movie the whole family will enjoy.  It does something that is hard to find these days…it’s funny without being crude.  You can actually enjoy this film with your family without worrying about the language used or any innuendos that you would feel uncomfortable trying to explain to your kids afterward.

The writer of this script is Andrea Nasfell, an Act One alumna here in Hollywood.  Act One was founded by our friend and former Board Member, Barbara Nicolosi, as a program to teach Christians how to make a difference in the entertainment industry especially writers and producers.  It’s wonderful to see them making a difference!

seanastinGive the Mom in your life a break this Mother’s Day Weekend and take her to see Moms’ Night Out.  Then tell her how much you love and appreciate her for everything she does for her kids and the world.  She deserves it.