Stephen Chow stars and directs this funny story about a cocky, power driven "cooking king" who loses everything to his evil understudy. His only hope is an unsightly street vendor (Karen Mok) who is secretly in love with him.
God Of Cookery ranks in my top 2 films of all time that are based on cooking. Granted the only other film I know that I've seen that is also about cookery is the Leslie Cheung film The Chinese Feast, which is reviewed on this site too! I've seen a lot of Stephen Chow films, some of which have been absolutely fantastic, but there have been some which are somewhat below average. The real question is where this one ranks on that scale.
There is something about seeing a film that is based on cooking that is really quite depressing. I'm a decent cook compared to the average person, but there is a limit to what I know how to do in the kitchen. Watching films like this just makes me want to eat the things that I'm seeing on screen, but I'm never going to be able to! All the culinary delights that I see are the proverbial forbidden fruit, they make my mouth water and make me depressed because I'm not able to cook anything close to how the food is portrayed on screen. I like my food and the effect all these dishes have on me is a definite plus point for God Of Cookery.
The food isn't what the film is all about though, it is the comedy. The problem I've had in the past with some of the other films from Chow is that the humour doesn't translate too well for a Western audience. This could be due to cultural differences or because the company creating the English subtitles have managed to remove all humour from the wording. Whichever it is, there are some films I'm never going to watch again as I found them too unfunny. God Of Cookery fortunately does not fall into that grouping. This review is being written after my second viewing of the film. I'm planning on flogging a lot of my films on eBay soon, and I couldn't remember whether I liked this film enough to keep, so I watched it again, and I'm glad I did. There are frequent comedy moments, many of which demonstrate the great comedic talent possessed by Stephen Chow. To make things better there are even several laugh out loud moments, my favourite of those being the 18 Bronze Men of Shaolin. I don't think the scenes involving them are the most obviously funny scenes, but something about them really tickled me! The style of humour ranges from being clever to out right slap-stick, but unlike a lot of the slap-stick comedy that plagues so many Hong Kong films, in God Of Cookery it mostly works. Things like the nose-picking man dressed as a woman that appears in many of Chow's films shows up again, and despite it being so utterly ridiculous, it gels well with the comedy in the film and is actually funny.
The humour is frequent all the way through the film and there are enough gags of one kind or another that even when some of them don't hit the mark it is not long until one comes along that does. The judge woman in the final God of Cookery contest is another highlight in the comedy that hits the mark. She gives detailed descriptions of what the contestants are doing, all of which are preceded by a statement along the lines of "Good frying skills", so when two contestants start fighting and a folded chair comes into the mix, she is still in awe, impressed by what she's seeing - "Waaahh! Good folded chair skills". It does make you laugh!
All the characters work very well together, with the humour being bounced around each character effectively. It is a change seeing Ng Man Tat as one of the evil characters in a Chow film, and this change is welcome as he is very suited to his role. The cooking stall triads are all funny in their own way and it is the mix of the characters that brings out the better elements in the film. It is a shame that Karen Mok is ugly for the majority of the running time, but for the pursuit of humour we do have to make some sacrifices!
Audio & Subtitles
The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1. It is alright on the whole. It sounds a little muffled at times and the surrounds are only used sparingly. However, there wasn't anything wrong with it that detracted from the viewing experience.
The subtitles are typical for what you'd expect from an older Universe release. They get the point across, but amid frequent spelling and grammar errors.
Much like the subtitles, the print is as expected. It isn't high on the detail fronts, being relatively soft at times, but it is functional. Colours are decent, but at times when I would have expected them to be bolder and brighter, like in the displaying of all the cooked dishes, they weren't as vibrant as they could have been. There is a little dirt on the print giving infrequent speckles on screen and at times a little grain is noticeable.
DVD & Extras
Nothing much on the disc for extras. Just the typical Stars' Files in English and Chinese, the film's trailer and trailers for 3 other films. Nothing special at all.
While there is undoubtedly a lot of humour in the film and the story of the chef fallen from grace and trying to get back what was once his, is quite good God Of Cookery doesn't make it into the same league as the likes of Shaolin Soccer. The humour is good and peaks into greatness only on a few occasions. It is a solid effort, which stands as testament to the growing ability of Stephen Chow.