Buried under a sea mediocrity, if you look hard enough, you will find a half-decent movie hidden inside this Cuban food truck culinary non-spectacle. I say half-decent, but ultimately it still is very forgettable and bland. Which is a pity because at times it’s very charming in the way it talks about the frustration of having an artistic vision and struggle to have the freedom to express it properly. That was poignant to me. It’s not hard to see how self-biographical the movie is, and that is exactly why the scenes leading up to Favreau getting fired are the best part of the entire movie. It’s completely engaging and very passionate because you understand that Favreau is, in certain level, honestly speaking about his own problems as a film maker. But that sentiment does not save it from being immensely disappointing, especially considering the level of talent attached to the movie. Granted, most of the A-list names only have maybe five minutes of screen time in the entire movie, but when they get top billing like the do here, it is always a bit of an annoying bait and switch situation.
It’s the second half of the movie, where the focus shifts to starting over and finding success again, where the movie starts to drag and become dull. It is very paint by the numbers ordeal and lacks any type of real struggle or conflict, Favreau basically stumbles into his success, and only makes it thanks to the enormous, selfless help from his closest friends and family, which is a nice message, but in this case makes for a very uneventful movie. There is of course some drama with Favreau’s relationship to his son, but that entire subplot is so uninspired and unmemorable that it doesn’t really make up for it missing from the main storyline, which is his career. It’d be one thing if he had to choose (I know, it’s clichéd, sue me) between his son and career, but his son is more of a lazy plot device with some drama thrown in to justify him being there, than a rounded character you care about.
Where it all eventually boils down to is that Jon Favreau, bless his heart, just isn’t that compelling as a main lead. And I’m saying that as someone who liked him in Swingers. He’s entirely serviceable here, but lacks that real male lead magic charisma which can make or break a movie. He does pull off the every man aspect very well, but overall he’s a bit too ordinary and bland, if you get what I mean. It’s just not very entertaining to watch him for over an hour. He does give a few very powerful performances when he loses his temper, but for most of the movie, he doesn’t really have what it takes to support the movie.
And finally, to give credit where credit is due, it really does show that Favreau spent some time with real chefs to learn about cooking, so he could mimic it accurately on screen. He does look like he has some idea what he is doing and makes it look good. The food presentation is also good, and at times makes you drool at times, which is a good achievement for a movie about cooking.