Movie review: Le Chef

By Peter Calder

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Jean Reno (centre) and Michael Youn (right) take gastronomy to new levels in Le Chef. Photo / Supplied
Jean Reno (centre) and Michael Youn (right) take gastronomy to new levels in Le Chef. Photo / Supplied

A film with more than a soupcon of je ne sais quoi, this very digestible kitchen comedy succeeds because of its charming modesty. It's assembled with the kind of jeweller's precision that distinguishes the much-remade farces of Francis Veber (Les Fugitifs, Diner de Cons) but it has a sunny disposition all of its own.

In this country, top-billed Reno is perhaps the better-known of the leading pair but the main character is really Jacky (Youn, a megastar in France as a singer and comedian).

A chef serially sacked because he keeps insulting diners for their bad taste, Jacky can't hold down the most menial of jobs, to the consternation of his heavily pregnant girlfriend, Beatrice (Agogue). When she lands him a job as a handyman at an old folks' home, he starts directing kitchen operations in his down time.

Across town in his eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant, Alexandre Lagarde (Reno) is doing battle with the interfering, undermining son of his partner, who wants to get rid of him.

More by good luck than good management (and trying to keep the fact a secret from his wife), Jacky ends up as Alex's sous-chef.

Any film that makes fun of molecular gastronomy (an imported expert makes a dish called "fragmentation of duck", which looks like Turkish delight) ticks the right boxes in my book, but for the most part there is nothing pointed, or even particularly subtle about the comedy here. A scene in which the two chefs dress in Japanese drag to infiltrate a competitor's restaurant is an inspired piece of silliness but it's hardly sophisticated.

No matter: from start (the opening credits, styled like a menu) to finish (a jaunty two-hand scene in front of the Eiffel Tower), it's light and delicious fun.

Stars: 3.5/5
Cast: Jean Reno, Michael Youn, Raphaelle Agogue
Director: Daniel Cohen
Running time: 84 mins
Rating: M (offensive language) In French with English subtitles
Verdict: French kitchen comedy is tasty fun.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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