Credit Lionsgate Premiere
Although “Cook Off!” bears a 2016 copyright date, the movie played — in a different version — at a comedy festival in Aspen, Colo., in 2007. The delay probably explains why the film takes nearly 40 minutes to deliver a glorified walk-on from Melissa McCarthy, who wasn’t nearly as major a star when it was made, or why she and the other well-known actors look about a decade younger.
Like the can that got lost in the pantry and is now showing telltales of botulism risk, this misbegotten mockumentary, directed by Guy Shalem and Cathryn Michon (though only Mr. Shalem was credited in 2007), hasn’t been improved by time. The movie tries to do for amateur cooking contests what “Best in Show” did for dog competitions, but the strained folksiness and tired stereotypes couldn’t be further from the snap and wit of prime Christopher Guest.
The contestants include Sharon (Ms. Michon) and Pauline (Wendi McLendon-Covey), a pair of sisters from Minnesota. Sharon is engaged to a closeted African-American Lutheran (Gary Anthony Williams) whose mere existence the movie seems to regard as humorous.
In a film with no shortage of wacky food names (“that-time-of-the-month crab puffs”) or kitchen disasters, Pauline’s creamed corn for the lactose intolerant is the only recipe that sounds remotely edible. What Ms. McCarthy does with sweet potatoes and way too many marshmallows is more likely to elicit a retch than a laugh — and suggests a culinary correlative to the way “Cook Off!” has been slapped together.