You may or may not know Stephen Chow. He is the brain behind comedy cult favorites Kung-Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer. He partakes in a very nonsensical style of comedy around seemingly ordinary things. Borrowing heavy inspiration from eastern animation elements like : over the top moves, expressions and dialogue. I came across the first film he made in that style, The God of Cookery. What we have here is a very entertaining comedy about a celebrity chef, Chow, who has given himself the titular nickname “The God of Cookery”. Those with an appreciation for eastern culture will get an extra kick out of this film. As there are plenty of call backs and easter eggs to far eastern pop culture, some even holding weight today. Yet the movie is still general enough for anybody to follow along and enjoy the ride.
Chow is the most popular celebrity chef in China but unfortunately he is a fraud. He fixes his televised appearances to trick audiences into believing he is an expert chef. His success and fame has made him arrogant and a pain to work with much to the dismay of his business partners. During the grand opening of his 50th chain restaurant, one of his shady business partner publicly embarrasses him. Show boating a new chef who can actually cook onto the set to upstage Chow. This leaves chow in ruins both in reputation and monetarily. This leaves Chow begging for scraps on the street, until he stumbles across a rare opportunity. When he combines the signature dishes of two rival food cart gangs (No, that’s not a typo .. trust me its great) he may have created something that will give him the chance to regain his title and fame.
This comedy is very much a slapstick, choosing to exist in a very off the wall kind of space. Which is really refreshing because the subject matter takes to it so well. Some would probably consider cooking a very subtle art form. This film takes that subtly and throws it out the window, everything is loud and over the top. It’s the style Stephen Chow has become famous for. With that in mind, God of Cookery definitely has the feelings of early work. You can see the groundwork he laid here, and how it translated to the films he is more famously known for. In a way, it makes this film stand out a little bit more as there is a certain amount of audacity about it. He was no doubt trying to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
It’s hard to give acting performances a grade when they are intentionally acting so over the top. What I can say is, it never gets boring and that’s likely the point. Stephen Chow usually works with the same faces, so if you’ve seen his other work you’ll recognize a lot of the characters. I always find it refreshing when a group of actors work frequently with other. Natural chemistry isn’t something you can teach, and that chemistry can often push a film to another level. That chemistry is on full display, so much so that it’s still apparent through the questionable quality of the English dub. Bad English dub is some what of its own sub genre. The English dub isn’t horrible, but it’s about what you would expect from a film released in the mid 90s. You could probably even make an argument that the dub is intentionally silly, just to match with the flow of the film.
You can fortunately find this gem of a movie on Netflix. So if you’re a fan of comedies and cooking, it be well worth your time to check this out.
P.S. I couldn’t really find a nice trailer for this, so I decided instead to just include a clip from one of my favorite scenes.