Forgotten Classics: Ray Romano & Kevin James are meat salesmen in ‘Grilled’

The other day when we were trying to come up with comedy vehicles for Vince Vaughn, someone on Twitter saw that we’d included “Grillmasters,” about Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson becoming competitive BBQers, and asked if I’d ever heard of Grilled. Turns out, our idea for a Vaughn/Wilson vehicle was pretty close to what was already a 2006 Kevin James/Ray Romano vehicle. I thought you should know about this.

The basic premise of Grilled is that Ray Romano and Kevin James play meat salesmen (“to them it’s not just meat, it’s a religion!”) and in the course of their work, get caught up in a mob plot. Kevin James plays a family man named Dave, and Romano plays a ne’er-do-well poon hound named Maurice (you can tell he’s trying to break away from Everybody Loves Raymond by the beard). Burt Reynolds and Sofia Vergara co-star, a few years before Modern Family would make her a star. Those are the basics, but here are my favorite excerpts from the disturbingly thorough Wikipedia synopsis:

While describing their varieties of meat Loridonna gets a phone call from her friend Suzzane who has swallowed a fish and needs help.

Loridonna and Maurice begin making out in the other room. Moments later Tony, Suzzane’s husband, comes home and finds Maurice with Loridonna. Tony casually changes clothes while telling Maurice that Loridonna was once a man.

Ray Romano, Kevin James, Michael Rapaport, Burt Reynolds, Juliette Lewis, a woman swallowing a fish – this movie sounds like it had everything. So how come it went straight to DVD?

Apparently, the film tested so poorly that they pushed it back a year, changed the title (from “Men Don’t Quit”) and stuck it on DVD. The final cut was only 83 minutes long, another sign things didn’t go so well in the editing room. Once it was out, Rory Aronsky of FilmThreat wrote:

Some would believe that by just having Romano and James in a film together that there’s already nothing. And that’s about 90% true.

Ouch. Double diss. I think? Anyway, pour one out for the once-promising William Tepper script directed by Jason Ensler. We’ll probably never know what could’ve been. Though I am still curious about that fish-swallowing scene.

If the studio was smart, they’d re-release it as “Paul Blart: Meat Salesman” and make millions.