Every day, the line between conventional entertainment programming like movies and television and online entertainment seems to blur. For instance, there is Netflix’s recent success with creating television shows for streaming. Another recent example is Coffee Town, a feature-length comedy that was produced by the website CollegeHumor. The results have an amiable, shaggy-dog charm, with an attention to consistently delivering laughs that gives it a leg up on its studio-produced brethren.
The premise for Coffee Town has echoes of Office Space: the protagonist is an everyman small business guy named Will (Glenn Howerton). He uses the titular location, a Starbucks-like coffee place, as his office as he works on his laptop. He pals around with errant cop Gino (Ben Schwartz) and goofy office drone Chad (Steve Little), moons over pretty fellow customer Becca (Adrienne Palicki) and engages in frenemy-style psychological warfare with smarmy coffee shop manager Sam (Josh Groban).
Between these episodic plot threads, a main plot gradually develops featuring Will teaming up with Gino and Chad to fake a robbery at Coffee Town to save it from being transformed into a “bistro lounge” by management. This results in a few modest plot twists during the last twenty minutes but nothing too drastic. Coffee Town‘s main order of business is to deliver a steady stream of chuckles.
Writer/director Brad Copeland has a background in television comedy and the sitcom-style, gag-conscious pacing of Coffee Town is actually one of its strengths. The over-indulgent improv that weighs down a lot of modern Hollywood comedies is kept to a minimum so there’s more room for episodic gags, including a scene where Chad is challenged to a fight by a customer with Down’s Syndrome and a subplot involving Will’s travails with roommates. Sometimes it strains a bit to be outrageous and some gags are funnier than others but its all-business, quick-moving approach to comedy ensures that it never goes off the rails.
Coffee Town is further aided by a likeable cast, most of whom have pretty extensive training from television work themselves. Howerton, Schwartz and Little make a nice comedic triumvirate, with Schwartz stealing a lot of scenes as he expresses his gleefully amoral take on being a cop. Palicki shows a nice, low-key sense of comic timing as the romantic interest and Groban is unexpectedly hilarious as the manager: since his character is an aspiring musician, the film throws in a lot of gags that skewer the amateur musician mentality and Groban dives into them with a charmingly ego-free willingness to send up his day job.
To sum up, Coffee Town is pretty effective on its own modest terms. What it lacks in name-brand stars and inventive plotting, it makes up in sheer consistency: in 90 minutes, it delivers more honest laughs than the last ten Adam Sandler productions combined.
DVD Notes: Shout Factory recently released Coffee Town to DVD with a few special features. The anamorphic transfer looks suitably crisp and colorful and the 5.1 stereo mix further enhances the technical polish of the presentation.
Extras begin with a commentary track that features Copeland, Howerton and Schwartz: as you might expect from a comedy film commentary, there’s a lot of joking around but you also get a steady stream of scene-specific observations that make it worth a listen for anyone interested (for example, Schwartz points out an acting choice he uses throughout the film that you might not notice on first viewing.
Elsewhere, A theatrical trailer and two t.v. spots do a solid job of selling the film with a mix of plot and gags. However, the gem among the supplements is an improv-heavy deleted scene with Schwartz and Little that revolves around a lie detector test. It’s hilarious in a raunchy way and should have made the film’s end credits.