I’ve arbitrarily decided that it’s Batman month here at Moving Pictures. Over the next four weeks, we will be taking a look at the Burton/Schumacher era of Batman movies. The first in the series of course is Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. The movie that proved comic book movies were big business. Though it would take another two decades for Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. to really kick things into high gear, Batman was like religion in the early 90’s. It was such a massive part of the cultural zeitgeist on billboards, in Happy Meals, pretty much everywhere you looked there was a bat symbol. It’s difficult to look back on this movie without realizing the pop culture impact it had at the time.
Zach was game enough to sit down and record with me for all four of these movies and I can’t thank him enough. He’s a massive Batman fan but whereas my fandom comes from the comics, he comes to it more from the 90’s animated series which directly spun out of this first movie. It was a ton of fun to record these and I hope that comes across in the recordings.
What do you do when you’re responsible for kick-starting the largest film franchise in history? If you’re Jon Favreau you go and make a small personal movie about sandwiches….
Okay it’s not about sandwiches. It is about food though. Specifically one man’s love of food and how it affects all of his interpersonal relationships.
Favreau writes, directs, and stars as Carl Casper. The titular chef who, at the beginning of the film is divorced, barely communicating with his son, and laboring under a dictatorial owner who won’t let him cook the food he wants to cook. After a video of Carl verbally assaulting a food blog critic goes viral, he is fired and forced to re-evaluate his life. He acquires a run down food truck, a sous chef (John Leguizamo), and sets out cross country to serve awesome sandwiches and reconnect with his son (Emjay Anthony).
This is a straight forward and well told story about food and how it can bring people together, or tear them apart. The characters are all strong and very well acted. The cast is stellar and there are a few great cameos that I won’t spoil here. It is small and personal in a refreshing way. We all have Favreau to thank for the current Marvel cinematic monster that is tearing its way across every movie theatre on the planet. But I love seeing him return to these smaller character pieces.
There’s also a very interesting subplot about social media and the many ways it can be used to build a community, or destroy a reputation. Not a week goes by where some athlete or celebrity makes some terrible decision on Twitter, Facebook, etc. and it dominates the news cycle for the next week. I think they could all do themselves a service by watching this movie.
My one large issue is that the movie wraps up in a bit too nice of a bow and it comes off very saccharine and tropey (Is that a word? It’s a word now.) I recently watched Boyhood (I will also be writing about it soon) which presents such a beautiful, realistic picture of a modern family unit. Chef unfortunately chooses the “Hollywood” ending and it plays very false, especially right at the end. However, this one issue aside I think Chef is very well worth watching.
P.S. Roy Choi was the chef consultant on this movie and it shows. All of the cooking scenes are gorgeous and are probably some of the best I’ve ever seen on film.