Film Review: Waiting

Posted: Oct 12, 2005 12:01 AM

Ever spent any time as one of those hapless souls working at Bennigans, Applebees, Chilis, TGI Fridays or any of the other chain restaurants that dot the American landscape like so many mile markers?

Then you already know the basic plot of Waiting, a gross-out comedy that gives a sarcastic salute to the profession that many of us participated in sometime in our early years—waiting tables.

The film presents 24 hours in the life of food workers. And the entire cast of characters one might find at any local Olive Garden or Red Lobster are present and accounted for. There's the insecure guy who gets taken advantage of by every pretty girl in the place, the untamed shrew of a waitress who hurls obscenities at her coworkers but turns into Sabrina Sunshine in front of tipping customers, and the self-important manager who makes the most of his meager authority. There’s also a sort of storyline and the skimpiest character development, but these are beside the point.

The point of Waiting is to take you back to that time in life when you spent all your tips on pizza and beer and had rotating, incestuous relationships with a single group of friends or coworkers. That time when you had no idea what you were going to be when you grew up even though you were already in your early twenties.

If you were never one of these people, or, say, graduated from college in the prescribed four years, the jokes in this movie may not hit the mark for you.

But if you were a card-carrying member of the slacker generation, then in between moments of crossing yourself and thanking God you’re not in extended-adolescence purgatory anymore, you’ll probably experience a few of your own humorous flashbacks as the kitchen hijinks ensue.

Ryan Reynolds turns in the same smirky just-like-Chevy-Chase-but-not-quite-as-talented performance he did in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, and it’s mildly amusing again here. But the real comic gold is mined from the unlikely source of Luis Guzman, the character actor who’s appeared in everything from Traffic to Lemony Snicket. As the oversexed line cook who invents the world’s most disgusting “two for flinching” game, he steals the laughs and the spotlight from the supposed draws of Reynolds and Anna Farris (Scary Movies 1, 2, 3, and 4 and Lost in Translation).

And unlike the National Lampoon’s raunch fests, the parties in Waiting look like something you might actually remember.

No playboy bunny-types wearing the latest fashions dancing with hot hipsters here.

Instead, Waiting features cramped apartments packed full of average-looking girls chain-smoking in an effort to up their cool quotient. Believe it or not, this shabby-un-chic approach is part of the film’s charm. The littered beer bottles and sloppy quarters games don’t necessarily look appealing, but they do look familiar. And there’s always some comfort to be found in the familiar.

As for the negative reviews from atop mighty New York Times et al mountain, all I can assume is that none of those critics ever worked crappy jobs serving mediocre food for lousy tips. Granted, the editing in this film gives the clear impression that an amateur is at the helm and the crudest elements (and believe me, they are very crude) feel tired and obvious. But goshdarnit, this rough little homage to food service is funny, and I hope I’m never so sophisticated that I can’t recognize funny when it spits in my mashed potatoes.

So if you are predisposed to gross, sophomoric humor - or if you are a man - you’ll probably find something to laugh at in Waiting. But be warned, many people will find it too insulting and abrasive to endure for long—a lot like working in a chain restaurant.

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