Incorporating elements of “Chef,” “American Splendor” and “The Big Lebowski” to no particular advantage, “Phoenix, Oregon,” a midlife crisis dramedy about an aspiring graphic novelist who opens an upscale pizzeria-bowling alley, amounts to decidedly less than the sum of its proven parts.
Still hurting over his divorce, terminally morose Bobby (James Le Gros) seems content to drift through life living in his late mother’s Airstream trailer while making ends meet tending bar evenings at an Italian restaurant owned by arrogant tightwad Kyle (Diedrich Bader).
But when his old high school buddy, gifted pizza-maker Carlos (Jose Borrego) proposes a fresh start in the form of that run-down bowling alley, Bobby plunks down his inheritance money only to have a smarmy venture capitalist (Reynaldo Gallegos) and a bitter bowling rival (Kevin Corrigan) distract him from a potential romance with a passionate wine merchant (Lisa Edelstein).
Although the production establishes the requisite lived-in, small town feel, it has also chosen to take its dramatic cue from the seemingly sedated gaze of its lugubrious, aliens-obsessed protagonist, whom Le Gros portrays with a remarkable economy of expended energy.
In his director’s statement, filmmaker Gary Lundgren writes of hoping his wounded characters “find what they’re looking for while they still have time.”
Given the film’s needlessly protracted length and equally drawn-out pace, getting to that point is about as engaging as watching dough rise.
Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes