‘Cook Off!’ is an Undercooked, Unsatisfying Mess

GameStop, Inc.

Cathryn Michon‘s Cook Off!, based on her book The Grrl Genius Guide to Life, lifts from the best with middling results. Originally premiering at the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado in February 2007 before being shelved for a decade, it is a movie that wastes its mostly stellar cast with lazy jokes, stereotypes, and trying to cram in far too many characters. It is a mockumentary in the style of A Mighty Wind or Best in Show, without the cleverness of Christopher Guest to guide it. It’s not all bad, but the funny moments are far too sparse leaving this viewer unsatisfied with his meal. There’s a reason no studio wanted to partake.

The film starts by introducing us to the quirky cooking contestants one by one; a pair of sisters (Michon herself and Wendi McClendon-Covey) one of whom sells Lutheran marital aids while the other works with the elderly, the former’s closeted fiance (Gary Anthony Williams), a black (as they mention over and over) woman (Niecy Nash) and her two sons, a preacher/lawyer (Phil LaMarr) and amateur martial artist, a husband (Diedrich Bader) subbing for his wife who’s ineligable to compete, Melissa McCarthy in a far too tiny amount of screen time, and so many more but I’m exhausted already. Most of these parts don’t actually have much in the way of character, with the film choosing to replace it with eccentricity instead. Even the ones who actually have a story arc aren’t interesting enough to overlook how self-obsessed they are, and how badly they need a good smack in the face.

The premise is good; a film crew follows a bunch of screwball contestants as they vie for the one million dollar prize in the Van Rookle Farms Cooking Competition. The execution however is pretty terrible mostly due to a script that thinks it’s much more clever than it is. I really wanted to like it, but the lazy attempts at humor almost always fell flat, the characters were mostly unlikable, and the whole thing felt like it was shelved for a reason. When Lionsgate got ahold of the movie there were some major edits made, deleting twenty minutes of footage and replacing it with twenty minutes of originally unused footage, probably to better spotlight a now well-known Melissa McCarthy. Whether this version is funnier or better than the original I don’t know as I’ve only seen this one, but no amount of editing could make it a good film.

There were a few inspired moments, like the winner’s circle gag, but they were too few and far between to save Cook Off! from itself. No matter how great your ingredients you can’t make a satisfying meal with a terrible recipe, and that’s what we have here. The filmmakers thought they were making filet mignon, but what we were given was a greasy burger.

Cook Off! is out on Blu-ray and DVD January 16th.

Cook Off!
  • Over All
1.5

Summary

No matter how great your ingredients you can’t make a satisfying meal with a terrible recipe, and that’s what we get with Cook Off!

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