The indie comedy “Waiting…” is obsessed with sex, with its own genitalia, and with urination, and it speaks of all three subjects constantly. The movie also believes the very pinnacle of humor is for short-order cooks at chain restaurants to introduce foreign substances into customers’ food. Oh, and the movie loves smoking pot and drinking beer. This isn’t just a “guy movie.” I think the movie actually IS a guy.
It needs to be fixed, too, this movie — not a lot, for its particular brand of puerile humor is often well-played enough to earn laughs; but a little bit, definitely. Writer/director Rob McKittrick included every gag he could think of about the hell of working at a TGI Friday’s-style restaurant, but he did it without regard for whether they all actually work.
It paints a vivid picture, that’s for sure, and a disturbingly accurate one, too, at least in terms of my own experience working at Denny’s (Provo, Utah, 1995-96). The crew at Shenaniganz includes a loser manager (David Koechner) who thinks he’s “doing pretty well” salary-wise, pot-smoking wannabe gangsta busboys (Max Kasch and Andy Milonakis), weirdly aggressive cooks (led by Luis Guzman and including comedian Dane Cook), one waitress who is a total pro out on the floor but seething with rage and bitterness backstage, and a cast of other servers who go through the paces of waiting tables as they wait for a chance to do something else with their lives.
Set over the course of one typical day at Shenaniganz, the protagonist is Dean (Justin Long), a depressed 22-year-old who has realized that the guys he graduated from high school with are now graduating from universities, while he’s still at the community college and working at Shenaniganz. The manager, Dan, is impressed with Dean’s work as a waiter and wants to make him an assistant manager. The money would be better … but then Dean would be committed to the place. He’s at a crossroads.
I said Dean was the protagonist. That is true, from a storytelling standpoint. But the real focus is his fellow waiter Monty, played by Ryan Reynolds, who I would bet serious money was cast specifically because McKittrick liked him in “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.” Monty essentially IS Van Wilder, transferred from college to food service. He has that same Zen-like mastery of his domain, subtly ruling every aspect of the restaurant with calm sarcasm, sleeping with whomever he pleases, getting along with all castes and subsections of the restaurant hierarchy. Monty seems content to live the rest of his life this way (much to the chagrin of his mother, who is played in one hilariously passive-aggressive scene by Wendie Malick).
Monty is assigned to train the new guy, Mitch (John Francis Daley), and thus we learn the ins and outs of life at Shenaniganz. Most of Monty’s training focuses on a game all the male employees play, where the object is to get another employee to unwittingly look at your genitals, then to make fun of him for being a homosexual, at which point you get to kick him in the butt. I’m not joking; several minutes of the film are spent discussing the finer points of this pastime. There is ultimately a point to it, sort of — the game is how the employees cheer themselves in an otherwise soul-crushing job — but I don’t know that the ends justify the franks and beans.
(One of the waitresses describes the game as “an exercise in retarded, homophobic futility,” and darned if she isn’t right. Another one says, much earlier in the film, “If you go five minutes without referencing your own genitalia, I’ll be shocked.” Again, I am always impressed when a movie includes reviews of itself within itself.)
But I’ll tell you, that Ryan Reynolds makes me laugh sometimes. His smooth, confident delivery is highly effective under the right circumstances. In fact, most of the characters are funny in their own odd ways, at least on occasion. The trouble is that too much has been crammed into one film, making it feel padded and exhausting. You want to tell the movie, “Relax, buddy. You don’t have to cover everything. Just take it easy. Oh, and you left the seat up again.”
B- (1 hr., 30 min.; )