Ronnie (Cameron Dye) and best buddy Dave (Kevin Geer) dream of success when they open a Manhattan tavern. Naysayers surround them, including Ronnie's dad (Frank Girardeau), who refuses to loan them money, and Carol (Margaret Cho), Dave's skeptical wife. However, Ronnie's boss (Steven Marcus) and sister-in-law Gina (Nancy Ticotin) throw in some coins, with the stipulation that he hire Gina's troubled son (Carlo Alban). Opening night is a big success, inspiring the commitment-phobic Ronnie to even ask Sharon, a sales clerk, out on a date. But then, business suddenly drops drastically. What are you gonna do?

There's not an iota of anything fresh or particularly good about The Tavern, the latest version of a bunch of white guys sittin' around talkin'. This actually makes something like The Brothers McMullen seem like Lubitsch by comparison. Writer/director/producer Walter Foote, son of playwright Horton, based his film on his own disastrous experience in the restaurant business, as well as his brother Horton, Jr.'s more successful venture with a tavern in Greenwich Village. Can their lives really have been this unengaging, this hackneyed? Maybe so, for Foote has stated that the idea germinated from a jingle that occurred to him in Grand Central Station, which he then sang into his own voice-mail system, to inspire him every time he checked his messages. The movie is just one deadening clich after another, peopled by characters you don't give two hoots for, layered over with a particularly self-conscious Noo Yawk flavor which should have been retired with Marty back in '55. The cast, from top to bottom, is seriously charisma-challenged. (And what would possess the brilliantly funny Margaret Cho to take such a drably negative part?)

--David Noh