Coffee Town: Film Review

"Coffee Town"
Small-screen vets don't quite find big-screen tone.

CollegeHumor makes its first feature film.

In Mike Judge's Office Space, fed-up workers hatched a criminal plot against a corporation bent on downsizing. More than a decade later, Brad Copeland's Coffee Town finds a member of Downsized Nation breaking the law to preserve what little shred of mundane routine he still possesses: the coffee shop where he and other independent contractors fritter away their lives serving bosses who can't be bothered to give them a desk. Copeland's film benefits from a cast familiar from such offbeat TV comedies as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Parks and Recreation, but it tends to embody conventions instead of subverting them, resulting in a product with only a bit more personality than the generic caffeine dispensary at its heart. Commercial prospects are slim, though VOD will benefit from the familiar faces onscreen.

Glenn Howerton plays Will, who maintains websites for big companies from his "office" at Coffee Town. The gig affords plenty of time to goof off with friends Chad (Steve Little), whose conversation starters include insights like "when you think about it, being straight is gay," and Gino (Ben Schwartz), a cop who shamelessly abuses his power while refusing to do any policework. Adrianne Palicki plays the requisite object of Will's longing, who comes in every day for a post-gym latte, and singer Josh Groban is surprisingly well-cast as Will's nemesis, a barista who disdains his exploitation of the cafe's free Wi-Fi and seems likely to get a date with Palicki before Will can even introduce himself.

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Jake Johnson earns featured billing as Will's old roommate, but the role is a flashback cameo: Johnson's big comic moment consists of bursting into the living room and wailing "I have fucking AIDS! Eaughhh!," thereby spoiling Will's conference call. He's dead in the present tense, and Coffee Town sees nothing icky about exploiting a bathroom counter full of AIDS drugs for laughs.

There and elsewhere -- in jokes about black smokers favoring menthols and an Ultimate Fighting League pitting "normal" people against contestants with Down Syndrome -- Copeland demonstrates a desire to be provocative. But the first-time feature director can't find the right tone: Gags are offensive in content but watered-down in delivery, as if tailored for a blandly mainstream cable aesthetic. Furthering the pedestrian vibe is an overreliance on blah voiceover by Howerton and a faux-heist storyline in which the men try to make the neighborhood look dangerous so the coffee shop's owners won't turn it into a bar.

Production: CollegeHumor

Cast: Glenn Howerton, Steve Little, Ben Schwartz, Josh Groban, Adrianne Palicki, Joshua Perry, Jake Johnson

Director-screenwriter: Brad Copeland

Producers: Katie Dean, Ricky Van Veen

Director of photography: Anthony B. Richmond

Production designer: John Mott

Music: The Wellspring

Costume designer: Emma Potter

Editor: Ned Bastille

No rating, 87 minutes