by Brian McKay
The only thing that gives me more joy as a film critic than when something I predicted as a steaming turd in advance turns out to be just that, is when something I expected to be mediocre at best turns out to be a pretty damn decent little film. Take WAITING, for example - a movie dismissed out of hand by many as a mere retread of films like CLERKS, OFFICE SPACE, or EMPIRE RECORDS (and while it's not quite the classic that those first two films are, it's a lot better than the latter one). Oh, sure, it tends to be overindulgent with the running gags (some of which pay off nicely, others not so much), and it definitely could have used about a 20 minute trim job in the editing room, but the bottom line is that the film is far better than I expected - especially thanks to the comedic contributions of people like Ryan Reynolds, Luis Guzman, Dane Cook, and even Andy Milonakis.Apparently culled from writer/director Rob McKittrick's experiences as a waiter in a chain restuarant, WAITING is a day-in-the-life of the poor souls who wait tables for a living, dealing with an annoyingly inept manager (David Koechner) who touts professionalism and then abuses his position to hit on the extremely hot but underage hostess (Vanessa Lengies). But the real headaches come from the customers, whether it be the overly-demanding redneck who leaves an insulting tip, or the scowling bitch who begins her tirade with "the food has been really awful the last four times I've come here".
"Waiting is the hardest part - especially when your customers are assholes"
But the brave souls who work at "Shenaniganz" (with the restaurant's name serving as a homage to Broken Lizard's SUPER TROOPERS) find their own little ways to make life on the job not only bearable, but fun. Monty (Ryan Reynolds) is the ringleader, always on the spot with a smartass quip. Monty is sarcastic but charming, as he pursues both the waitress Serena (Ana Faris) who dumped him, and the aforementioned jailbait hostess, Natasha, who does all she can to throw herself at him. Meanwhile, Dean (Justin Long) struggles with the decision to accept an assistant manager position that pays well, despite the fact that he hates his job and his manager. Besides engaging in the day to day hijinks, Dean's only real joy working there is dating hot co-worker Amy (Kaitlin Doubleday). Populating the rest of WAITING's cast are raving psycho-bitch Naomi (Alanna Ubach), Head chef Raddimus (Luis Guzman) who has boosted staff morale with his "Penis-showing game", assistant chef Floyd (Dane Cook) who answers all requests for food items with mocking derision if not outright hostility, nervous waiter Calvin (Robert Patrick Benedict) who suffers from shyness with both women and public urination, two white busboys and wannabe gangstas T-Dog and Nick (Max Kasch and Andy Milonakis), and Shenaniganz' resident dishwasher, philosopher, and self-help guru, Bishop (Chi McBride).
But while most of these people start out as just broad caricatures, something happens throughout the course of WAITING, and the chemistry and cameraderie between these disparate elements are what makes the film work most of the time. The crew of Shenaniganz are a mostly likeable bunch, and there are plenty of laughs to be had at the expense of the manager, the customers, and most of all, each other. Sure, the formula that WAITING follows is nothing we haven't seen before, but most of the time it still works, and it's still fun. Some of the running gags are played out to excess (like Calvin's shy bladder trouble), but others (the penis-showing game in particular) are usually good for a solid laugh. But while some of the jokes don't quite pan out, WAITING generally moves along just fine with all cylinders firing.it's a shame that this comedic diamond in the rough was dismissed by most critics, and performed dismally at the box office. Despite its flaws, it really is a funny, witty, and suprisingly charming slob comedy - although a scene featuring the cooks' food-tampering revenge on an uber-bitchy patron just might swear you off of restaurant food for good.
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originally posted: 03/21/06 06:45:05