I don't doubt that Ray Romano and Kevin James could anchor a fairly amusing buddy-type comedy ... but freakin' Grilled sure as hell isn't it.
Previously titled Men Don't Quit and then shuttled off directly to video, this New Line production boasts a colorful cast, a potentially kooky concept, and perhaps three whole laughs within its 77-minute frame.
Romano and James play a pair of formerly-excellent but now-struggling meat salesmen. They're told that if they don't land a big sale (and soon), it's a short trip to the unemployment line. James has an estranged little kewpie-doll daughter; Romano needs money to pay for his acupuncture classes. After this scintillating set-up, we're treated to a short and desperate montage of failed sales -- and then the "plot" shows up.
While trying to sell some meat to a Hispanic hottie, her mafioso boyfriend comes home and makes a small ruckus. Then a pair of stupid hitmen come by, whack the boyfriend, and strike up an uneasy alliance with the meat sellers, one of whom is now posing as a counselor for the Hispanic hottie's suicidal friend. (Don't ask.) Also, the Hispanic hottie used to be a guy, a plot contrivance that's plumbed for maybe three limp gags.
And then there's some confusion with the hitmen before the meat-sellers stumble across the path of a dangerous restaurant owner who looks like he might be trouble, but actually might be the means to a happy (yet stupid) ending.
Frankly I can't imagine what Romano and James (two successful sitcom stars who certainly aren't hurting for money) saw within this one-note and redundant screenplay that made them sign on. But they're not the only ones; peppered throughout the short and tiring little comedy are folks like Sofia Vergara (the Hispanic hottie / former man), Kim Coates (mafioso boyfriend), Juliette Lewis (suicidal wacko), Michael Rapaport (stupid hitman), Mary Lynn Rajskub (bitchy ex-wife), Jon Polito (meat customer), and Burt Reynolds (as "Cookie Goldbluth.") Yeah, it's that sort of movie.
Grilled looks and feels like it was written in four days and shot in three. There's no palpable sense of comedic timing or witty banter. The thing starts out like it wants to be a "nightmare day" scenario like After Hours or Adventures in Babysitting (only those flicks took place at night), before it lazily devolves into gunplay, running, and wild-eyed camera-mugging. I suppose there's a great comedy to be made on the subject of door-to-door meat salesmen... Actually, there probably isn't.
Video: The anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer is suitably clean and eyeball-friendly. The movie shows off its low-budget roots on more than one occasion, but the visual presentation is passable enough.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0, with optional subtitles in English and Spanish. Audio quality is perfectly fine, if nothing dazzling.
Maurce & Dave and Company (15:06) is a basic behind-the-scenes featurette. Interview subjects include director Jason Ensler, producer William Tepper, Ray Romano, Kevin James, Juliette Lewis, Michael Rapaport, and Burt Reynolds, who expresses his joy at being asked to play "head of the Jewish mafia."
Ray & Kevin: True Life Buddies Featurette (9:39) is a joint interview with the two comedians. Again, I really think these guys could put together a fine comedy. Grilled has a few funny moments, but not nearly enough.
Also included is one deleted scene and a handful of New Line sneak peeks.
Aside from the pleasant yet not hilarious pairing of Romano and James, there's nothing here worth looking at. The only time the flick yanked an honest laugh out of me was when Kevin James got mad and threated to punch someone's asshole. That really is the funniest gag in the movie.
Rent It if you're a big fan of these sitcom stars, but don't go in expecting a huge laugh riot.