Film fans love to find hidden gem films. Sometimes films are lost to time and it is exciting to see them when they are uncovered. It can be a true joy to find these films for the first time. However, sometimes those films should just stay lost to time. Spoiler warning… Cook Off! Should have stayed lost to time.
Cook-Off! Is an odd little film that somebody somewhere thought would be a good idea. And then it got shelved and ten years later somebody thought it would be a good idea to release it. Seemingly inspired by the same formula that made “The Office” such a success. Staged like documentary coverage being shot, the film follows several quirky and largely dysfunctional individuals as they compete in a cooking competition.
You have a young woman who is being pressured by her overbearing former cooking star mother. There is a man who is serving simply as a proxy for his girlfriend who can’t compete. Also, we have A pregnant woman who could give birth at any time. One woman is accompanied by her two adult and very different sons. Another woman will have her emotions be wrecked by the discovery of her fiance’s preferences (a reveal which comes off awkward and uncomfortable in this day). We even have a woman who shows up late and is only allowed to compete due to the cheers of the crowd.
All of these competitors are pulled together into this competition with a peculiar and obnoxious host. Those whose creations and odd concoctions managed to impress the judges, are promoted to the final stage. Because nothing goes right, the finale has to be delayed due to lack of critical thinking. The creators of the competition created a finale stage with a flaw so that the contestants can’t enter to compete. At least the delay is short compared to how long this film was delayed.
The appeal of this should be the peculiar individuals that we spend time getting to know in interviews and laughing at their antics. The problem is, none of the characters are all that entertaining or likable. Given the number of characters and runtime, the actors don’t get the opportunity to shine through, so we are left with a collection of very thinly built and bland characters that are supposed to be quirky. This is truly disappointing because there are so many actors and actresses capable of being rather entertaining and likable in this. And none of the antics are all that funny. There are a few bits here and there that you might laugh at, but it is so sparse that the film seems to drag on.
One of the most annoying things about this release is that they built the cover to showcase Melissa McCarthy even though she is obviously not supposed to be a big part of the movie. Given that Cook Off! was shelved for 10 years, Lionsgate probably looked at cashing in on her more recent successes. She is the most recognizable face in this movie today, so they promoted her to front and center on the cover. There is also talk that re-edited the movie to bring back footage to increase her involvement, which seems likely as she receives disproportionate screen time for the amount of the story that she is in. Unfortunately, adding these scenes back in makes the pacing feel even more off.
Really, Cook Off! is no Best in Show. There isn’t much redeeming about this one.
Technical Side: 3.5/5
While unimpressive, Lionsgate provides a pretty good video transfer for the film. Cook off! deliberately looks low quality like “The Office” would, but still looks very clear. Despite the overall dinginess of what is captured, the transfer does a quality job of presenting it cleanly with good detail and colors true to the palette. The audio is also good for what it is trying to present. Given that it is a cooking competition, there is a lot of background noise. However, Cook Off! Includes a surround track that does a very good job of presenting dialog that is always clean. Granted, the movie features no great score or action to enjoy over your sound system, but this track performs well.
Special Features and Packaging: 2.5/5
The Ultimate Food Fight: This is probably more interesting in its 15 minutes than the entirety of the film. These comedians and actors are pretty funny individuals and listening to them is far more interesting than these weak characters they portrayed.
Deleted Scenes: With the number of scenes that didn’t work in this film, the idea of deleted scenes frightened me at first. In the end, most of these were actually decent but would have hindered the pacing of the film. On the upside, plenty of these work outside the context of the film.
Outtakes: Just a couple of minutes of outtakes that are also included in the credits.
Cook Off! Overall: 2/5
So, really was Cook Off! terrible? No, it wasn’t. But it was pretty boring and poorly paced. Too many characters with too little time for good actors to act. Wrapped in a mockumentary vehicle that just never takes off. I actually checked how much longer the movie was several times during this movie. That is never a good thing.
The audio and visual quality is perfectly fine despite this being a decade old and shelved. The extras are decent for this release. But this film isn’t worth spending the time on. If you’ve read this far, you’ve spent more time than you should on Cook Off! You are better off spending the time watching three episodes of “Good Eats”. You’ll laugh more and you might learn to cook something. If you are brave and I haven’t scared you off, you can buy the Blu-ray from Amazon or other movie retailers.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.