“Bar Fight!” is an 84 minute long break-up “Who gets custody of ‘our‘ regular bar?” comedy that hits the wall at about the 30 minute mark.
Writer-director Jim Mahoney did the offbeat friends playing-a-game comedy “Gatlopp,” sort of “Jumanji” for grownups. That was more original and funnier, with more going for it than this one.
Take away that “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Rachel Bloom, who takes-no-prisoners as the mouthy, mean BFF of our heroine, and this would be a “Bar Fight!” that never lands a punch.
Nina (Melissa Fumero) and Allen (Luka Jones) are cheerfully running a Venice yard sale when we meet them. She’s an attorney playing hardball with the hagglers, he’s a “chill” furniture maker serving toddies to everybody who buys something from them.
They’re splitting up, and it’s as amicable a holiday breakup as can be…without a prenup.
There was no argument over the furniture of giant screen TV. But when Allen and his biz partner Milan (Julian Gant) knock off work and hit The Martinez Lounge, of course they run into but Nina and her married-with-two joy-sucking little girls pal Chelsea (Bloom).
“Who gets to stay ‘regulars’?” Much of the staff — bartenders (Shontae Saldana, Daniel Dorr) the scary cook (Dot-Marie Jones), the “pacifist” bouncer (Patrick Byas) — has an investment in who wins. Not the manager (Vik Sahay). And probably not Autumn aka “Florida” (Hope Lauren), the new “actress” waitress from Tampa.
“What goes in a Cape Cod?” “It’s just a vodka-cran(berry juice)!” “Why didn’t they just SAY that?” “Welcome to Los Angeles!”
We get just enough of the staff’s different personae to figure we’re in for a “Waiting…” style riff on the working stiffs in a Venice bar, when “the competition” is dreamt up for Nina and Allen to decide “custody,” and with a vengeance.
The staff throws the feuding couple into “The Big Wheel Race,” “Blind Man’s Darts,” “Human Bowling” and a game to see who can get the “most phone numbers” from members of the opposite sex by closing time.
The games are a lot like that first contest, the Big Wheel (trike) race through the bar, gags played at half speed.
Only the “phone numbers” bit finds much that’s funny, mainly from Bloom’s hilarious riffing on this jerk Nina has to hit on, or that one.
“I feel like we’re in some ‘douche’ ‘Who’s on First?’ time warp!”
The leads are supposed to make us invest in hoping they can work things out, or at least get really ugly as the games heat up. Nothing doing.
Mahoney is on safer ground with the assorted gonzo “types” in the bar, the pushover manager who can’t even talk an older woman into not stealing their copper “Moscow Mule” mugs whenever she comes in, the charming bartender with great people skills and great “game” with the ladies, and zero ambition, that scary cook, the customer who pretends he’s an agent to cadge free drinks…
And then there’s Bloom, the “sidekick friend” living vicariously through her vivacious unattached pal and more than a little manic about it.
She’s funny. “Bar Fight!” isn’t.
Rating: unrated, alcohol abuse, profanity
Cast: Melissa Fumero, Luka Jones, Rachel Bloom, Julian Gant, Patrick Byas, Shontae Saldana, Vik Sahay and Dot-Marie Jones.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Jim Mahoney. An IFC release.
Running time: 1:24