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Review: Stale mockumentary ‘Cook Off!’ misses its mark

Cathryn Michon and Gary Anthony Williams in the movie “Cook Off!”
(Lionsgate Premiere)

Wafting into theaters after sitting on the back burner for the last decade, “Cook Off!” is a shrill, gloppy mess of a mockumentary being served up well past its “best before” date — if there ever actually were one.

Set against the overheated backdrop of the fictional Van Rookle Farms’ annual cooking contest, the production focuses on a cast of wacky characters with names like Ladybug Briggs and Amber Strang all clamoring for the $1-million top prize by frantically whipping up such concoctions as Luscious Lemon-Lime Crumble Pie and Potato Salad Flambé.

Despite managing to attract a sprawling cast of proven comedic performers, including Melissa McCarthy (prior to sharpening her chops in “Bridesmaids”), Mindy Sterling, Stephen Root, Niecy Nash, Diedrich Bader, Markie Post, Marcia Wallace (who died in 2013) and Gavin MacLeod, the tasteless, drawn-out results are certain to leave audiences starved for laughter.

While they clearly had the output of Christopher Guest in mind, co-directors Guy Shalem and Cathryn Michon, who wrote the novel “The Grrl Genius Guide to Life,” on which the film is based, commit the fatal mistake of poking fun at their characters rather than affectionately embracing their idiosyncrasies.

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That crucial distinction makes all the difference between bright, inspired satire and the sort of bloated comedy that falls flatter than a failed soufflé.

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‘Cook Off!’

Rating: R, for sexual material/references

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

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Playing: AMC Dine-In Sunset 5, West Hollywood; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; also on VOD

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