Boasting some of Disney Channel’s top tween stars in a take on gender roles and stereotypes, “Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook Off” is a refreshing slice of fun in the midst of a long, dry TV summer.
Taylor Ball (“Still Standing”) and Orlando Brown (“That’s So Raven”) star in this coming-of-age and coming-out-of-the-kitchen tale of a first baseman who dreams of flambe instead of double plays. Following your dreams isn’t all its cooked up to be sometimes, especially if you’re in eighth grade and you’re the only thing standing between a winning baseball season and total humiliation for your team.
Eddie (Ball) is the Groundhogs’ star player, and his dad and coach, Hank (Mark L. Taylor), doesn’t hide his disappointment about their bad year. Hank has big ideas about Eddie’s baseball future and often puts Eddie’s best interest above that of the team. Frankie (Brown) and DB (Reiley McClendon), Eddie’s best friends and teammates, don’t mind too much: Their goal is to have fun and, above all, beat their cross-town rivals.
Although Eddie enjoys baseball, he really looks forward to making his famous post-game hot dogs for his friends. When a family emergency leaves Eddie in charge at home, he takes over dinner duties and wows everyone with his creative concoction; soon he signs up for home economics at school.
On the sly, he enters his Incredible Edible barbecue sauce in a national cookoff and, sure enough, the cookoff is the same day as the Groundhogs’ playoff game against their rivals. Everyone, especially Eddie’s father, just assumes that baseball is far more important than cooking. And they almost have Eddie convinced as well.
Writer Dan Berendsen lays out several important messages here, particularly about parents’ expectations and the discipline and patience of children. Only the sports-cooking competition analogy is overdone.
Ball is comfortable conveying conflicted Eddie, a typical teen who wants to fit in, and Brown works well as Eddie’s funny sidekick. Adding flavor is TV chef Bobby Flay, who appears in a super-sized cameo as host of the cookoff.
Director Paul Hoen wins points for reviving not only the Danny Thomas spit take but also the “Animal House”-style food fight in two incredibly visceral scenes. Some may cringe at the less-than-sanitary handling of raw chicken and eggs, but judging from the pristine sets and all-too-fabulous schools and homes, the film won’t be mistaken as anything close to reality. Other tech credits were unfinished.