Caffeine (2006) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but definitely R for sexual humor, language and a scene of drug use
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Marsha Thomason, Breckin Meyer, Mena Suvari, Mark Pellegrino, Katherine Heigl, Sonya Walger, Mike Vogel, Callum Blue, Andrew Ableson, Roz Witt, Daz Crawford, Neil Dickson, Mark Dymond, Steve Humphries, Jules Leyser, Jennifer Sciole, Orlando Seale
Director: John Cosgrove
Screenplay: Dean Craig
Review published March 6, 2007
I remember seeing this film before, back when it was called Waiting, except with different actors, better writing and directing, and an actual laugh or two. I guess the only real difference here is that the setting isn't a chain restaurant, but a London café, with its cast of British and American actors (all but Meyer adopting British accents). I've heard it mentioned at times that certain things sound better when told through a British accent, but as evidenced by Caffeine, bad comedy is bad comedy, no matter how it is inflected.
The film starts off with the manager of the Black Cat Café, Rachel (Thomason, My Baby's Daddy), firing her best cook, Charlie (Blue, Princess Diaries 2), who also happens to be her boyfriend, after she finds that he has had a tryst with identical twins. Unfortunately for her restaurant, this makes it nearly impossible to keep up with the rush of orders coming in from the rambunctious patrons, while her backup cook's (Pellegrino, Twisted) entrées aren't even fit to feed to stray dogs. As the patrons get more ornery, tension mounts among the staff. As if matters couldn't possible get worse, Rachel unveils that she is up for a better job at another establishment, if only she can give the semblance of efficiency and hard work for the man coming to inspect her establishment later in the day.
If I want to be kind to Caffeine, I'd mention that it does have an attractive and capable cast, even if some of the accents are a bit iffy in terms of sounding authentic. Unfortunately, it won't sound so kind when I mention that this is about as much as I can say in a positive regard, as the film fails on practically every other fundamental level.
The only thing that Dean Craig's (Death at a Funeral) script brings to the table is to have his characters all harbor some sort of secret, generally a sexual perversity, which comes out during supposedly discreet conversations that are overheard by other patrons or the café staff at various times. As for the staff: Charlie has his twin sandwich, Tom is madly gay, Rachel may have had sex in her office with Dylan (Meyer, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties), and Vanessa (Suvari, Rumor Has It) is tending to her grandmother (Witt) who went crazy when she came home to find her husband dressed as a baby while being spanked by another woman. The patrons of the establishment are even worse: Gloria (Walger, The Librarian) is a porn queen, Steve (Crawford, Game Over) is out to get laid at any cost, David (Dymond, Blackball) likes to dress in women's underwear, and John (Ableson, Boyfriends) exposes himself to young girls.
Somewhere along the line, it might have been funny for director Cosgrove (The Sleepwalker Killing, Victim of Love) to actually have his characters do and say funny things other than to spotlight their fanciful sexual indiscretions, but alas, he must have thought the mere depiction of these fetishes would be enough to garner snickers from the audience. As we watch the patrons and staff become more manic, the tone of the film shifts from mild but ineffective all the way to intolerably unfunny and unfathomably dull. The material used in this film wouldn't even be adequate fodder for a 30-minute pilot for a possible cable TV sitcom, much less a 90-minute gag-a-minute comedy.
Those of you who've read my review of Waiting will know that I didn't much care for that film, even though it did make me laugh on occasion. Without not a single laugh whatsoever, you can imagine how I feel about Caffeine. I honestly don't know who I would bother recommending it to, save for people who find the thought of a man in panties and garters funny. Quirky characters with sexual problems can only take you so far in comedy; you have to actually find a way to make these characters and situations humorous, and generate momentum in order to make audiences giddy. That's not an easy task when you're bouncing around from character to character, but it's impossible when not a single storyline or scenario merits our interest, and even lesss, our amusement.
Caffeine, the drug, is known as a stimulant, usually taken in order to to perk up its consumer and keep him awake and alert for a period of time, or sometimes to alleviate headaches -- effects this film seems to produce the opposite reaction of in abundance Highly addictive, withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, drowsiness, irritability, and in some cases, vomiting. For 90 minutes, Caffeine, the film, will make you feel like you're kicking a 15-cup-a-day coffee addiction cold turkey.
©2007 Vince Leo