CollegeHumor has come a ways from their humble website beginnings in 1999. Over the years they have expanded strongly into the original content game. The site’s web series and original sketches have become huge across the internet, earning them Webby Awards and allowing many of their writers to move on to bigger comedic vehicles like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live. The site has continued to branch out; releasing three books as well as an MTV television series (although that only lasted the one season). It was only a matter of time before the troupe ventured into the realm of features. Coffee Town is the first feature film from the comedy site and unfortunately it looks like they might not be ready for it just yet.
This is a story about Will, but since the robbery offers some semblance of structure to the piece, it’s what is touted as the film’s plot.
Will (Glenn Howerton) is a young website manager with a special kind of office. Unable to work at home and without a true office space, he uses the nearby coffee shop, Coffee Town, as his own business center. Copious seating, free WiFi, and a space where his friends can stop by for a visit are what make Coffee Town so special to Will. One day he overhears that the shop is looking to make some changes. With a proposed remodel as a Bistro Café, a change that will upturn Will’s entire work-life, the only way to keep his sacred space is to make the shop look much less appealing. Under the shaky gaze of the obtuse brain trust of Will and friends Chad (Steve Little) and Gino (Ben Schwartz), they decide that for the sake of everyone, they have to stage a robbery.
Obviously the entire robbery plot is not the point of the film. This is a story about Will, but since the robbery offers some semblance of structure to the piece, it’s what is touted as the film’s plot. Even for a MacGuffin it is weak and is nearly forgotten as quickly as it is brought up. By the time they were actually getting down to the robbery, with misleading title cards that attempt to add a sense of forward momentum, I just didn’t care anymore. It’s formulaic and somewhat pedestrian not only in its idea but execution. Nevertheless, I already admitted that this plot is secondary to the real story in the film, so why don’t I just get back to that.
This is about Will, a vanilla character with a strong sense of self entitlement and a confusingly high level of snobbery. If you aren’t friends with Will, well he doesn’t like you and you’re probably beneath him anyway. The character is written without any attempt at likability, coming off as an even blander Ted Mosby (narration and all) that you just don’t care about. For your narrator and gateway into the film, he’s not someone you want to be around. His personality is utterly boring and when he does have anything to say it is typically negative. Glenn Howerton doesn’t really add anything to the character. Take him out and insert some other generic, somewhat good looking actor and the film plays the same way. In fact the rest of his plot lacks any true believability. He in no way deserves to get his dream girl, played by the unsurprisingly charming yet still generic Adrianne Palicki, but it’s his film so I think we all know where that’ll end up.
I wouldn’t call the film bad, with entertaining moments sprinkled throughout, but most of the time it just seems like they are playing to what they think a 20-something male would like to see on screen.
The rest of the cast does a serviceable job. Ben Schwartz gets pretty much all of the good lines with a character that seems a lot like a more driven Randall of Clerks or a less financially successful version of his character on House of Lies. Steve Little continues to play his go-to borderline mentally challenged character and its starting to become tiresome. These two are the source of most of the laughs within the film. And yes, despite the inherent story problems there are some laughs to be had. The three characters spend most of the time sitting around a table talking about meaningless things often with humorous asides, typically to the detriment of the perpetually slow Chad. The real problem is the script. It appears to think that to be groundbreaking it should be shocking, throwing in unfunny examinations of the nature of homosexuality, flirtations with racism and a couple of AIDS jokes that sink like stones. But the jokes aren’t shocking and honestly, you’ve heard better versions of them before. I wouldn’t call the film bad, with entertaining moments sprinkled throughout, but most of the time it just seems like they are playing to what they think a 20-something male would like to see on screen. They aren’t too confident in what they have produced and present the film sheepishly as if to say, “this is kind of stuff you like, isn’t it”. It ends up being lowest common denominator and as dull as its main character.
You may argue that I expected too much from a company whose primary output is online sketches. I shouldn’t be surprised that most of the time Coffee Town just feels like several CollegeHumor videos strung together, with its characters as the commonality. There is legitimate talent involved but nothing strong enough to allow it to be good. The funniest moments come from the outstanding chemistry between Ben Schwartz and Steve Little, but even their humorous riffs cannot sustain an entire film. By the end, it feels only slightly better than the slop of direct-to-DVD comedies (there is some place where this film reigns over a class of American Pie spinoffs). Coffee Town is fine; it is neither great nor unique, smart or terrible enough to merit a cult following, it resides in a land of middling comedy attempts that are rightfully forgotten by most.
[notification type=”star”]50/100 ~ MEDIOCRE. Coffee Town is fine; it is neither great nor unique, smart or terrible enough to merit a cult following, it resides in a land of middling comedy attempts that are rightfully forgotten by most.[/notification]