Brad Copeland’s Coffee Town shows that in today’s world all you need is wi-fi. Anywhere can be an office as long as it’s got a free internet connection, and anyone can watch the first feature from internet comedy site CollegeHumor as long as they have a fast enough connection to stream a movie.
This first foray into features from the self-proclaimed internet comedy leaders is an experiment into studio-free, straight-to-streaming films. Much of what major studios can do for this sort of comedy is market the film, especially to its main demographic: 18 to 30-year-old males. The brains over at CollegeHumor figured that they already have that target market nailed down, all they have to do is create the quality film that would appeal to their large fanbase.
Coffee Town tells the story of Will (Glenn Howerton), a 30-something website manager who uses Coffee Town, a local cafe, as his office. It serves as a spot for free wi-fi, a meeting place for his friends (Steve Little and Ben Schwartz), and most of all, a location to gawk at the girl of his dreams (Adrianne Palicki). His presence there isn’t without opposition though, as Sam (Josh Groban), a disgruntled barista/wannabe rock star, hates the freeloading table hogs who squat in the shop all day.
Will’s comfortable office is in jeopardy when he hears of plans to potentially turn the shop into a bistro lounge. He decides the only way to keep a social crowd from infringing on his $6 a day office is to break into Coffee Town at night and show that the neighborhood is unsafe for a bar.
Setting a comedy like this in a coffee shop is a wonderful idea. Coffee shops are ideal locations for great conversation, and Copeland’s script takes full advantage of that. The film is filled with witty banter and humorous conversations that may seem random and out of place in most settings, but are completely natural for three guys sitting around sipping java.
All the supporting characters in the film are well defined and add a great deal to the story. Little and Schwartz are excellent as Will’s best friends. Each of them bring a ton of laughs to the film. Groban shows that he can be a truly loathable antagonist, as he plays the jerk barista spot-on, and Palicki shines despite not having anything to say for the first half of the film. The small scenes between her and Howerton show a ton of chemistry and have a very intimate feel.
The solid performances and quality comedy throughout have a lot to do with Copeland’s direction. This film serves as his directorial debut, but he previously worked on an icon of comedy when he wrote for Arrested Development. It’s clear by the subtle humor that fills his first film that he took what he learned working on that show to heart. With the quality of Coffee Town, there’s no doubt Copeland will be given the opportunity to direct more films in the near future. It seems that he gave enough direction to keep the film focused, but was hands-off enough to allow his actors to embody the characters they play best and infuse their skills into the roles.
Howerton, who most will know from his role on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, plays a straight man of sorts here, but that doesn’t mean he’s without his own comedic moments. Howerton is one of the true geniuses of modern comedy, both through writing and acting, and I’ve said for a while that he needs to lead a feature. His performance in Coffee Town definitely does not disappoint. His character is the only one with any real vulnerability in the film, and he balances those moments with his more humorous ones very well.
The little moments of comedy that fill the story help to keep the laughs coming from start to finish. Schwartz’s portrayal of the world’s worst cop will have you rolling with laughter time and time again. From things like never filing a report to his ways of “subtly” lowering a woman’s self esteem, Schwartz is the comedic motor to the film. It’s the sort of humor that you’ll get more out of with each viewing, and that kind of witty comedy is always preferable to the bathroom humor that’s so prevalent in theaters these days.
Coffee Town sets itself apart from many other films in recent years in that it does very little to offend. There are a few slightly racist jokes, but those are handled in a way that isn’t all that derogatory. The most potentially offensive bit revolves around one character who has Down Syndrome, but even his involvement is for plot’s sake as opposed to the gags that many other films exploit mental retardation for.
Honestly, there are relatively few complaints to be had with the film. At times the story seems to jump a bit much and though the pacing feels a bit awkward in those moments, it’s never overly distracting from the film. Little’s character becomes a bit too stupid by the end for no particular reason as well. At the start he has his moments where he doesn’t seem to be totally there, but by the end he can hardly string together two coherent sentences, and it becomes a bit over the top. Still, it’s nothing too terrible and is a rather small complaint.
Despite what you may think, there are more than just laughs present in Coffee Town. The story explores some deeper issues such as what life is like for someone who works a job on the internet, without any real human interaction. That’s something which an increasing number of people can relate to, and this film delves into the lack of a sense of belonging that many of those people may feel. It deals with how someone in that position may strive to find that sense of community, and how taxing it might be to have that taken away. That added substance is sometimes lacking in modern comedies and this film is all the better for having included it.
Coffee Town is a very well-made comedy, with sharp writing and excellent performances driving the film. It keeps the humor smart and the laughs coming throughout, while still having some real substance at its core. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable film and a definite must-see.