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CATHERINE KRUMMEY: Summer fizzles; 'Chef' sizzles

Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau star in “Chef.”

Summer started with a couple of bangs: the highly anticipated sequel “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” featuring Andrew Garfield reprising his role as the titular character/Peter Parker, and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” where every star the franchise could find popped up.

Since then, things have been fizzling out a bit: Melissa McCarthy doing the same old schtick in “Tammy,” yet another over-wrought “Transformers” movie (this time without the franchise’s star, Shia LeBeouf), Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler pairing up for their blandest movie yet (“Blended”), an action flick that’s part “Groundhog Day,” part “Independence Day” where viewers get to watch Tom Cruise die repeatedly (“Edge of Tomorrow”) and other mediocre — or worse — movies.

Critics’ opinions of this summer’s movies aren’t the only negative reception they’re getting; the box office earnings seem to be taking a dive, too.

According to a report from last week, this summer’s box office is down nearly 13 percent from last year. Over the three-day July 4 weekend, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” claimed the top spot for the second week in a row. Reuters reported that the movie made $36.4 million in a time period when summer blockbusters have earned at least three-times that in previous years.

Summer movies usually don’t have a lot to offer those who crave meaningful storytelling when they go to the theater, and it looks like moviegoers are starting to finally realize this. For this reason, summer is typically my least favorite season when it comes to movies, and I often look to more independent films or DVD releases to get me through summer’s lackluster fare.

One such movie, which I saw on the suggestion of a family member with questionable taste, is “Chef.” It is the latest movie from Jon Favreau, who directed the first two “Iron Man” movies and the modern Christmas favorite “Elf.”

Favreau — also a well-known actor — stars in “Chef” as Carl Casper, whose culinary career has fallen into a safe zone, resulting in a negative review and a string of bad publicity. At the urging of family and friends, Carl decides he needs to hit the reset button on his life. “Chef” shows his journey as he goes about pursuing a new direction with his career and strengthening his relationship with his son.

The movie could’ve easily devolved into family-friendly fluff with that plot line, but it offers realistic details and a few edgier moments that make it a family movie for grown-ups of all ages. (It is rated R, after all.)

Strong supporting performances from John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale and Scarlett Johansson help make the world of “Chef” easy to believe.

And while Favreau is the star, Emjay Anthony steals the show as Carl’s son, Percy. Their chemistry makes the movie the unexpected gem that it is.

The way the movie integrates Twitter through special effects is also quite unique and a good technique to engage younger audiences. Next to Magneto’s stadium trick in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” it is my favorite visual effect of the summer, so far.

“Chef” is now playing at both the River Cinema 15 in East Grand Forks and the Carmike 10 in Grand Forks. And of all the summer movies I’ve seen up to this point, it is a clear favorite.