"Chef"

(From left) John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in “Chef,” now playing at Regal Downtown West 8 in Knoxville.

It’s easy to get stuck in the doldrums of life. It’s the same routine, day in and day out.

Wake up. Head to a job you may or may not like. Spend a day doing what might be considered busy work while staring at the clock, watching the hours tick by. Go home. Sleep. Repeat.

It gets monotonous, even when things like family or friends are in the mix to shake things up a bit.

It’s still the same routine, the same work and the same people, day after day. For some, this might sound like a dream come true while others might require something more out of life.

Meet Carl Casper, the protagonist at the center of “Chef.” Once upon a time, Carl (Jon Favreau, who also wrote and directed) had a hot wife, Inez, (Sofía Vergara) and a cooking career that left him room to play and grow.

Flash forward. He’s a divorced, uninterested father who is the lead chef at a Los Angeles restaurant. A top food critic (Oliver Platt) is coming to check out his menu. Carl wants to excite and titillate taste buds. The restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman) wants him to play it safe with tried-and-true crowd favorites. The latter pays the bills, so Carl’s menu is standard and unadventurous.

Needless to say, things go downhill from there for Carl. The review is awful and leads to an explosive bout with his boss that leaves him unemployed.

Add in a few more plot points, and Carl has a food truck, where he’s dishing up authentic Cuban food with his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) and best friend/former sous chef Martin (John Leguizamo). There’s laughs, love and more food.

There are things about this film that work beautifully. And then there are things that annoy the heck out of me.

A positive — and techically, a negative, too: The food looks fantastic. This is what I would classify as food porn, but I could be biased. Favreau makes the most amazing grilled cheese I’ve ever seen. Each dish looks better than the first, grilled cheese excluded as nothing compares to it.

Word to the wise: Do not see this movie hungry.

Positive: There are some awesome cameos. Hoffman and Platt are short-lived but worthwhile. Scarlett Johansson steps in as a restaurant hostess willing to seat Carl anywhere he wants. But the best is Robert Downey Jr. as Carl’s ex-wife’s other ex-husband. His role is brief but incredibly entertaining.

Negative: Speaking of Johansson, the film tries to add in some romantic moments that just fall flat. Carl’s tryst with the hostess is followed by a relationship that feels forced with Inez. Honestly, Carl has more chemistry with his bestie Martin than he does either of these women.

Second negative: Carl’s relationship with his son is poo. Complete poo. I’m not sure why the ex-wife or his little boy keep trying. His interactions with Percy are forced. Seriously, Inez and the child trick him into hanging out.

This one could be based on my own issues, but watching a father who has zero desire to truly interact with his child rubs me the wrong way.

The film does wrap up all of the relationships it explores, although it feels like it rushes them at the end. It creates storylines that need a conclusion, so it finishes them, even if not very well. But, a happy ending is a happy ending, right?

“Chef” started out as a little independent film that refused to be held back. It’s branched out into more theaters and lasted longer than expected. Despite the things that annoy me, it’s a good film. Some might say great.

It’s well-acted and more importantly, it’s fun. Now if I could just find a way to recreate that grilled cheese sandwich.

Amanda Greever is the assistant managing editor of The Daily Times. Contact her at amanda.greever@thedailytimes.com, follow her on Twitter @agreever_editor and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend.

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