Review – Undercooked and Poorly Served (“Burnt”)

Title, title, who’s got the title? First called Chef, but nixed because of Jon Favreau’s 2014 movie. Then it was called Adam Jones, but then later dropped because it just sounded dumb. Finally, it was decided to call this movie Burnt. It didn’t help things much.

Bradley Cooper, he of the scruffy beard and laser-blue eyes, plays Adam Jones, a prestigious 2-star Gordon Ramsey-ish chef with a penchant for violent verbal outbursts, cooking ADD, and insufferable egotism. Thrown out of a Paris restaurant for drug abuse and being a dick, Adam cleans himself up by a self-imposed, two year “penance” in New Orleans, shucking one million oysters for a small street cafe. So much for rehab.

His plan for rebuilding his life? Go to London, get his own restaurant, and be the #1 chef in town. He devious plan starts with enlisting a powerful food critic (Uma Thurman in a very brief cameo) to frighten Tony Balerdi (Daniel Bruhl), the maître d’ and owner of the Langham Hotel and restaurant, into having Adam become his head chef and hand pick his crew. Tony agrees, not only because of Adam’s amazing skill, but because he’s secretly in love with Adam.

Adam picks David (Sam Keeley), a young hot-shot street chef, single-mom and damn good sous-chef, Helene (Sienna Miller), and Michel (Omar Sy), a former Parisian chef buddy that Adam had a falling out with. With his crew set, Adam is ready to take on his arch-cooking rival across town, Reese (Matthew Rhys), another former chef buddy that he parted ways with badly. Yeah, Adam’s made a few enemies here and there. . . including not paying off some former drug associates, but that’s another story. Adam’s also got a therapist (Emma Thompson) who’s there for his weekly drug testing and witty banter.

Aside from his bouts of Ramsey-style screaming at his crew for poor food cooking, he really tries to make an effort to change and be a better man. Helene even sees something in Adam and encourages him to be that person, but it all goes to hell when the all-too important “Michelin” critics come to eat (England’s version of our Zagat Book) and Michel decides to serve up a delicious plate of ice cold revenge.

But will this set-back make Adam go off the deep end? Will he learn from his mistakes and go forward instead of backwards? And will all that food thrown away be eaten by somebody, ’cause really, they toss a lot of it away!

Written by Steven Knight, (he also wrote 2014’s other foodie movie, The Hundred Foot Journey) with a slow moving standard story of an unlikable guy who finds redemption through food and a girl that he’ll eventually respect someday once he gets over loving himself. The dialogue isn’t the greatest, the acting is better, but that FOOD! Director John Wells, whose forte is mostly shooting TV shows/movies, really shows us the intricate world of cooking and yummy shots of food being prepared and served. I DO NOT recommend seeing this movie on an empty stomach.

Originally conceived as a comedy for Cooper and set in Paris, Burnt isn’t the worst food movie out there, but it certainly isn’t the best. It ranks far better than Favreau’s Chef movie that came out last year as far as plot is concerned. Cooper’s Adam Jones is SO very unlikable, that even when he finally finds his moral center, you still want to kick his ass for being so obtuse. You want to bake the perfect banana cream pie for him… and then smash it in his face.

Ratatouille (2007)

One of my favorites and Pixar’s very best (and underrated) CGI animated feature films is this delicious little morsel from the mind of super-screenwriter, Brad Bird, who gave us the fantastic The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, and the upcoming The Incredibles 2!

Told as two separate stories (quite unusual and daring for an animated feature film) and then linked together as one tale, we have Remy (voiced by Patton Oswald), an idealistic and ambitious young rat with a highly developed sense of taste and smell, not to mention being a genius at cooking! Inspired by his idol, the recently deceased TV cooking star, Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), Remy dreams of becoming a master chef himself.

He goes to Paris and to the fabulous Gusteau’s Restaurant, the hub of fine dining where he sees a young chef named Alfredo Linguini (Lou Romano) and Skinner (Ian Holm), the restaurant’s devious and surly diminutive owner. When Linguini spills a pot of soup and attempts to recreate it, Remy sneaks in and cooks the soup back to perfection. Linguini catches Remy and is confronted by Skinner, but when the soup proves to be a success, Linguini realizes that this little buddy of his can help him out.
Remy, hiding under the chef’s hat, finds he can tug and pull Linguini’s hair, manipulating his actions to cut, chop, dice, and flavor soups and dishes to perfection! Skinner wants to have the boy fired but finds out, in a wild coincidence, that Linguini is the sole heir to Gusteau’s, and Skinner is ousted for good! You’d think the movie could end there, but it doesn’t. Linguini’s would-be girlfriend and fellow sous-chef, Collete Tatou (Janeane Garafalo), discovers his ‘secret’ of cooking just as Paris’ most influential food critic, Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole) comes in for dinner. Panicked, Remy serves the critic a simple dish of ratatouille, and Anton is blown away by the flavor and…  demands to see the chef!
The screenplay is remarkably simple, yet so well structured in both dialogue and plotting you’ll forget you’re watching a kids movie. Deceptively engaging and heart-warming at the same time, Bird (who also directed this masterpiece) really knows how to make a movie work and his way around a kitchen (even an animated one). Even the rats are given their due as heroes instead of the filthy plague-carrying garbage-eating vermin that they are. Definitely worth a second look!