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.
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.