A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chef, starring Jon Favreau (who also wrote and directed the movie) is a fantastic comedy about food, family, and one man's flawed but abiding love for both. The main content issue is salty language ("f--k," "s--t," and more), with one character swearing in front of his young son and an expletive-filled rant being caught on video and posted on YouTube/other websites. There are also some sexual references, kissing, and a woman shown waiting in bed for her lover (no nudity). Adults drink and smoke both marijuana and cigarettes. Technology plays a prominent role in the storyline, along with the attendant product placement. The movie's core message is clearly positive -- be true to yourself and your work -- but beware if you're on a diet: There are plenty of mouth-watering scenes set in the kitchen.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is an inspired, creative chef toiling at an uninspired Los Angeles restaurant. He's capable of so much more than the safe, predictable menu that he serves under the watchful gaze of the restaurant's owner (Dustin Hoffman). After a big-time food blogger (Oliver Platt), once a fan of Carl's, gives him the worst review of his life, Carl confronts his boss and quits. Now what? At the invitation of his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), Carl accompanies her and their son to Miami, where Carl first fell in love with cooking and honed his fresh ideas about food. With no restaurant to cook for, Carl considers opening a food truck. But is that his best move?
Is it any good?
Favreau has starred in and directed blockbusters, but he got his start thinking smaller scale, with his breakout indie hit Swingers; CHEF is most likely to please fans of that film. It's steeped in love -- not just for food, but for filmmaking. This is a movie clearly made with passion and gusto, just as cooking should be. Chef's storyline, filled with references to social media and how it can make or break you, is of-the-moment, but it's ultimately threaded through with a timeless message about finding your bliss.
It's also a fresh take on fatherhood, post-divorce, without the usual treacle. Carl struggles mightily to parent well, even as he juggles the pressures of a career on the brink of destruction, a friendly but still bittersweet divorce, and a heaping dose of self-doubt. His yearning to find his footing as a dad is as authentically drawn as his drive to serve the kind of food he's always longed to cook: simple and good. If there's one complaint about Chef, it's that the ending can be spotted a few food trucks away. But that doesn't feel like a major disappointment -- just what's meant to be. John Leguizamo, Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson also co-star -- brilliantly.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Chef's messages. Are any of the positive take-aways about being true to yourself and what you love undercut by the movie's more mature content? What audience do you think the movie is primarily aimed at?
What role does social media play in the story? Do you consider Carl's experiences a cautionary tale? What can teens take away from what he goes through?
Hollywood loves stories about comeback kids. Is Carl one? What's different about his journey?
Is Carl a good father? How would you characterize his relationship with his son? How does the film depict their dynamic?
- In theaters: May 9, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: September 30, 2014
- Cast: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
- Director: Jon Favreau
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Cooking and Baking
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, including some suggestive references
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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