Movie Review: ‘Coffee Town’
Directed by: Brad Copeland
Starring: Glen Howerton, Ben Schwartz, Steve Little, and Adrianne Palicki
Plot: A website designer who works out of a coffee shop plans a robbery to discourage a remodel to a bar.
College Humor is a website that has been producing original comedy videos and articles since 1999. More recently they have moved into the realm of TV with the help of MTV, and with Coffee Town, this marks there first foray into movies, at least digital distributed ones. It stars a number of television stars. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glen Howerton is Will, a former cubicle jokey who lost his job and started managing a website. He works out of a coffee shop because they have free wifi, he can get out of his apartment, and his friends can stop by whenever they feel like it. This includes Gino the lazy cop (Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz) and 9-to-5-er Chad (Eastbound and Down’s Steve Little). When he isn’t shooting the shit with those guys, he is ogling his crush Becca (Friday Night Lights’ Adrianne Palicki) who comes in every day for a cup of coffee. He just has to fight off the barista Sam (musician Josh Groban) for her affection.
The movie kind of reminded me of the comedies of the 90s. It was very reminiscent of early Kevin Smith or a lot of the She’s All That imitators. It takes place primarily in one place and is mostly about the characters sitting around talking to each other occasionally getting into bits of slapstick. The humor is very Seinfeld-ian. Most of it comes from the average observations of Will. His inner monologue narrates the movie, which is a little to on the nose, and he even occasionally visualizes these little cartoon moments that don’t seem to have any real purpose other than a quick visual gag. That said, Howerton is channeling some early John Cusack here, reminding me the most of his role in One Crazy Summer.
Even his conversations with Gino and Chad are very much like Jerry Seinfeld’s old sitcom. It starts off with a weird seed of a conversation, the kind of thing you would only say to your best friends, and it would grow into the kind of conversation that makes you wonder how the hell you got to that weird moment in the first place. Steve Little is probably the most hilarious of the bunch with his hapless ways getting him into the most trouble or bringing up the worst ideas. Schwartz and Howerton aren’t exactly laugh out loud funny, but they have great lighthearted banter and chemistry. A few well place zingers keeps the tone and pacing from sinking. It is fun watching Howerton, who is mostly a nice guy (or at least leagues nicer than his Always Sunny character) fumble his way through flirtations for Becca, who is nice enough to just let the awkwardness run its course than shove it in their face. Probably the most surprising of the bunch is musician Josh Groban, who epitomizes here the hipster douchebag stereotype holding down a minimum wage clerk job that he is too good for until his band gets off the ground.
The major conceit of the film is that Will is watching life pass him by. He is stuck in his chair in fear of losing a primo table glued to his laptop barely ever looking up. They could have dressed it up a little more and let us make it to that message all on our own, but it remains a pretty interesting take on the modern social experience. People hate their jobs so much they are looking for any kind of escape just short of quitting, and the rest of the world is either too caffeinated to slow down or too plugged in to whatever electronic they have to notice just how unhappy everyone really is. They don’t do to much to drive home the point (and even end up substituting something about karma instead), but I think our social reality is fairly well depicted.
For a movie about a robbery that also comes from a website not afraid to get a little blue, it is surprisingly well behaved. The obscenities seem to be kept to a minimum, and the offensive jokes seem to be more simple and stupid misunderstandings rather than straight up bigotry. No surprise here since writer/director Brad Copeland’s body of work has been mostly in television sitcoms (primarily the very funny My Name is Earl and the legendary Arrested Development). And that’s kind of what it feels like: an hour and a half pilot for what could be a sitcom with potential.