The Good: Moments of humor, One or two acting moments
The Bad: Predictable, Inconsistently funny, Predictable character arcs, Derivative
The Basics: Waiting . . . presents a dark comedy about servers at a restaurant, the abuse they put up with and the games they play in order to stay sane.
I have a theory . . . it goes something like this: whether or not I think the movie is the best thing Kevin Smith has ever done, there is a whole generation of moviemakers who watched Clerks and decided they wanted to be Kevin Smith. To be fair, this is not the worst thing in the world, nor is it the most original or welcome. The thing is, Kevin Smith is quite an adequate Kevin Smith and we remain thrilled with his jokes. I, for one, feel like so long as there is a Kevin Smith out in the world making movies, we do not need people like Rob McKittrick making movies like Waiting . . . that are essentially non-Kevin Smith (but might as well be Kevin Smith) movies.
McKittrick's Waiting . . . would be fine and original if it did not have so many obvious Kevin Smith conceits, the foul-mouthed potheads, the lovelorn worker who is happy in his rut, the restless worker who is not cool with his station in life and the near-constant dick and fart jokes. McKittrick essentially remakes Clerks in a family dining restaurant with the same universal sense that Clerks had for convenience stores. In other words, despite the Kevin Smith conceits, Waiting . . . has the same sensibility to it such that anyone who has ever worked at a restaurant will be able to pull out which characters remind them of people in their lives and experiences, much the way Clerks reminded people who worked in convenience stores of their experiences there.
On Mitch's first day at Shenaniganz family restaurant, he is plagued with watching innumerable videos, and he meets Monty and is introduced to the other servers and cooks at the restaurant. He is also introduced to a foul game involving revealing his genitals to other workers and accusing them of being gay in order to pass the time. As Monty shows Mitch the ropes - and considers seducing the not-quite legal Natasha - Dean comes to work where he is offered a promotion by the restaurant's manager, Dan.
As Dean mopes through his day trying to figure out if he wants to take the promotion and stay at Shenaniganz, he considers where other graduates from his class are now. As customers abuse the female servers and the cooks work to have sex with other servers, Dean muses on how good his friends truly are and what he wants out of life.
Here's the thing, I suspect that people who might like Waiting . . . are probably creative enough to watch something like Clerks and empathize with the protagonists in that movie. I honestly doubt that there was a huge market of people who sat and scratched their heads watching Clerks and said, "This is good, but I just don't see the struggles like I had at that restaurant; I wish someone would make a movie like this, but put it in a restaurant setting!" Similarly, I doubt there was a huge audience of people scratching their heads and saying, "I wonder when Anna Faris and/or Ryan Reynolds will get work again . . . I'd sure love to see them in a movie again!"
The thing is, it is more than the presence of T-Dog and Nick, the pot-smoking, whippet using busboys who curse their way through their few scenes like utter degenerates that makes Waiting . . . derivative of Clerks. The Monty and Dean friendship is an unlikely pairing between an utter loser and a guy with real potential. The character arc of Dean is virtually identical to that of Dante in Clerks. The style of humor where jokes focus on sexual insecurities and genitalia or gross-out humor is virtually identical as well.
To be fair to writer-director Rob McKittrick, Waiting . . . does have more characters and the female characters have a bit more direction and presence than in Clerks. While some are pretty much just sex objects in this film and Amy whines her way through the film, Serena holds her own and the angry Naomi is distinctive. Even Natasha, who seems to be another kitten in the crew, has a strong sense of presence, even if her desire to lose her virginity as a seventeen year-old to the much older Monty is not the most positive character arc.
But to be realistic, much of Waiting . . . is just a bunch of late teens and twenty-somethings drinking, getting high, getting laid and messing with customers who they complain about in the worst possible language when in the back room. Waiting. . . continues a cinematic trend of movies that continue to illustrate twenty year-olds living below their potential and existing in a way where they are content to stagnate. This type of humor gets old quickly and the characters are tiresome.
In Waiting . . . there are few surprises and much in the way of gross-out humor, like when the cooks doctor a plate of food after a customer complains about it using such things as body hair, spit and dandruff. Gross. And while there is some vicarious satisfaction to be gleaned from the working person getting one over on the annoying customers, it is disturbing to think of how such things could happen at any point in a restaurant. But in the tradition of such movies, the customer here is always wrong and the customer is always annoying, abusive and vocal about their contempt for the help in such a way that they pretty much deserve what they are getting.
As for the acting, Waiting . . . is hardly anything extraordinary. Anna Faris, who gets second billing, is adequate in what is little more than a cameo. Justin Long holds his own as Dean, but he gives nothing his fans have not seen before. He had far more realism and gravitas in Dreamland and his comedy in Waiting . . . does little more than his Mac computer ads. Chi McBride, David Koechner and Luis Guzman lend some sense of maturity and presence to the movie, though only McBride escapes the film with a sense of dignity to his performance.
It is Ryan Reynolds who carries much of the film and he does it quite well, though this role hardly expands on his comedic acting abilities. Indeed, Reynolds is more a product of casting to the type than challenging the actor. Reynolds deadpans and glances his way through the film in a way that reminds casual viewers how he became popular, as opposed to making the viewer think "Wow, he's got talent!"
Ultimately, the problem with Waiting . . . is that it is hardly original enough and while anyone who has worked at a restaurant may be able to pick their friends out of the film, there is little entertainment outside the reminiscing for the rest of us.
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© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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