Four Chefs and a Feast | Chicago Reader

Four Chefs and a Feast

Descendants of the families that once operated Shanghai's premier restaurant return from Taipei and Hong Kong for another try at glory in Li Kwok-lap's tasty but insubstantial 1999 comedy. The film capitalizes on its fascinating cuisine, and it's most interesting when the chefs argue passionately over how to prepare the fancy dishes. Unfortunately neither Li nor his actors can bring conviction to the contrived story, a metaphor for the reunification of China. Supposedly Li was inspired by Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman, which treats elaborate dinners as the glue that holds a family together—in fact Wu Chien-lien, the paterfamilias of that film, appears here as a mysterious investor—but Li's film is chop suey in comparison, and despite the exterior location shooting, its squeaky-clean Shanghai looks about as authentic as the one at Disney World.

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