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The Tavern Reviews

The apple falls in a whole other field from the tree in this clumsy buddy/little-guy drama from Walter Foote, son of the Pulitzer Prize and two-time Oscar-winning playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote. Middle-aged, leather-jacketed New York City bartender Ronnie (an irritating Cameron Dye) and family-man childhood-buddy Dave (a sympathetic Kevin Geer) want to take over a "gold mine" restaurant-bar. They scrape together money from police-widow Gina (Nancy Ticotin) and fellow bar owner Jerry (Steven Marcus). (According to the press notes, Gina and Jerry are also Ronnie's sister-in-law and his boss, respectively, though the movie itself never clarifies either point.) Ronnie and Dave's Tavern on Main eventually launches successfully, then suffers roller-coaster fortunes, thanks to fickle customers, chef travails, back-stabbing, courtesy of former owner Kevin (Greg Zittel) — who opens a new place nearby, even though he promised not to — and getting hit with a stiff fine for having music and dancing without a cabaret license. Bewilderingly oblivious of storytelling fundamentals, the film makes a point of emphasizing how difficult such a license is to get, then nonchalantly shows bar patrons dancing to a live band a few scenes later, as if the previous events never happened. The boys also recruit chef Miguel (Gary Perez) from Kevin's new place, not knowing Miguel's an illegal immigrant; Kevin sics the INS on him, then simply "pays his bail" and puts him back to work, as if those previous events never happened. Subplots involving Ronnie's sister's wedding, his romance with dress-store clerk Sharon (Kym Austin), and Dave's problems with his wife (a shrill but well-shaded Margaret Cho) are either meaninglessly tangential or never resolved — much like the movie itself, which ends but doesn't conclude. A lovely soundtrack by Irish balladeers the Saw Doctors can't make up for the rest of this belabored labor of love.