Look out, foodie cinema -- there's a new sheriff in town and his name is chef Adam Jones, the swaggering hero of "Burnt." Played by a perfectly stubbled Bradley Cooper, Adam is an attractively damaged bad boy with a motorcycle jacket and a halibut recipe that will give you "culinary orgasms." Hide the booze! Stash your drugs! And be sure to lock up your daughters because Adam is too savory for any woman to resist.
"Burnt" is not a comedy, but if Cooper were replaced by Will Ferrell it would be almost as funny as "Anchorman." Written like a noir by Steven Knight and directed like a moody cop show by John Wells (NBC's "Third Watch"), "Burnt" takes itself so seriously that it ends up as self-parody. How else to describe a movie in which the romantic leads kiss so passionately that they fling away their shopping bags full of skinned sole?
If the hero of Pixar's "Ratatouille" was essentially Billy Elliot, and the hero of Jon Favreau's "Chef" was Jerry Maguire, then Adam is "like the Rolling Stones," says one awestruck character. (Hence the gritty blues by John Lee Hooker that opens the film.)
Formerly the enfant terrible of Paris, Adam flamed out three years ago with drugs, alcohol and women. Now he's sober and living in London, where he starts a bold new restaurant -- Adam Jones at the Langhorne -- with his cautiously supportive friend Tony (Daniel Bruhl). Their goal: the elusive third Michelin star.
"Burnt" strains hard to strike macho poses within its rarefied world. Sometimes it feels like "Full Metal Michelin," as Adam browbeats his staff and forces them to apologize to the food they've ruined. At other times it's a culinary "Chinatown," as pretty sous chef Helene (Sienna Miller) presses Adam for the truth of his shadowy past. Matthew Rhys plays Reece, Adam's only equal; the two relish their rivalry like a couple of Kung-Fu masters.
This inadvertently entertaining movie may be to your taste if you like your bacon extra-crispy and your French fries dark brown. Despite the presence of Mario Batali as a consultant, it has to be said: "Burnt" is overdone.