Carl Casper (played by Jon Favreau) loves to cook … but more than that, cooking is his passion. He’s Head Chef at a long standing LA establishment owned by Riva (by Dustin Hoffman) which has been doing the same thing for decades but Riva just doesn’t see the need to change a thing. When a well known food critic, Ramsey Michel (by Oliver Platt), comes to review the restaurant, Carl sees his chance to break out and try something new. But Riva won’t hear of it and Carl’s “same old, same old” food is panned beyond belief. A spat between Carl and critic Ramsey ensues and thanks to social media, it goes public and then viral. Riva insists Carl sticks to the same old ways and when they clash, Carl takes the moral high ground and quits, leaving his sometime girlfriend, restaurant manager Molly (by Scarlett Johansson) and his fellow-chef buddies, Martin (by John Leguizamo) and Tony (by Bobby Cannavale) to run the kitchen, while he sorts himself out. At the same time, Carl struggles to have a meaningful relationship with his son Percy (by Emjay Anthony), who really wants to see a lot more of his dad, but Carl is wholly focussed on his food. Carl’s ex-wife, Percy’s mother Inez (by Sofía Vergara), wants them to have a much closer relationship so she decides that Carl needs to get back to his old self and suggests they take a trip back to Miami, where she and Carl first got together. Once in Florida, Inez asks her first ex-husband, Marvin (by Robert Downey Jnr) to find a way to help him out. Carl surprises himself and renews his inspiration for food when he gets back to basics and starts a food truck. His friend Martin arrives from LA to give him a hand and they start to sell authentic Cuban street food. After a ripple of success they decide to drive the truck back to LA via New Orleans and Austin, Texas to try out the new venture. Then things really start to take off – the road trip gives Carl and Percy a great chance to spend some quality time together and cement a stronger relationship. But will this be at the expense of Carl’s passion for food – or can he do both?
This is an entertaining movie – the comedy is nicely paced and balanced with some sensitive moments and general “feel good” storytelling. As Carl Casper, Jon Favreau is an authentic guy learning lots of new things, several from his son – social media for one and how to be a good Dad, for another. Their relationship is presented nicely – it’s not deep, it’s realistic and develops at a believable pace. Emjay Anthony does a great job as Percy. Robert Downey Jnr. makes a short but hugely entertaining contribution as Inez’ first husband, Marvin, and Carl’s two friends Martin and Tony are played beautifully by John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale respectively. We don’t see much of Dustin Hoffman, although he’s the restaurant owner his character (and moreso Scarlett Johansson’s), is almost redundant. But, then again, although we don’t see much of Oliver Platt’s food critic character, Ramsey Michel, his role is fundamental to the story. Sofia Vergara is well cast as the somewhat mysterious and exotic Inez – she lights up every scene she is in without stealing the show completely. Overall, the visual presentation is great – but I do advise you not to see this movie if you’re hungry as the food is depicted with such love that anyone with even a hint of appetite will have difficulty resisting the urge to tear at the screen clean, to want to eat RIGHT NOW. It’s a good movie, well done.
Made in 2014. Directed by Jon Favreau