Metro Weekly

Chef’s Special

Reel Affirmations 2009

Fuera de Carta

Review by Sean Bugg

Rating: starstarstar (3 out of 5)
Wednesday, 10/21/2009, 9:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts
Spanish with English subtitles

MAXI HAS A full plate. His restaurant, with a staff of eccentrics and rapscallions, is teetering on financial collapse and needs a Michelin star to break through. His hostess and best friend, Alexandra, is a needy wreck in search of a man. His ex-wife — he divorced after being discovered being boned by his brother-in-law — just died and left their two resentful children in his care.

And the super-hot former soccer star who moved in across the hall seems to be interested in more than Maxi’s entrees.

Chef’s Special throws all of these ingredients into the pot in hopes of cooking up a banquet of comic mischief, but the resulting dish is the type that generally earns a ”Please pack your knives and go.”

While the Spanish film obviously owes some debts to early comedies from Pedro Almodovar, its major debt is to the world of sitcom television. Characters move across the screen engaging in various shenanigans that never feel like a natural outgrowth of character but instead from a screenwriter thinking, ”Now, wouldn’t it be funny if….”

So while some individual scenes have bits of comic flair — soccer player Horacio’s accidental coming out on live TV, for example — every situation is based on every character declining to pay any attention to any other character. In the end, you get a happy ending because, well, movies like this are supposed to have a happy ending.

A flat farce, Chef’s Special offers an occasional tasty amuse bouches, but little of more substance.

Chef's Special
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Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.