October 07, 2005

Waiting ...

Directed by Rob McKittrick Starring Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long and Anna Faris

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

Those who actively pursue their dreams - especially those dreams of the artistic variety - often pay their dues working in the service industry before they get a taste of success. So it's no surprise that many draw inspiration from their experiences schlepping food or manning the video rental counter. The restaurant business alone has served as the milieu for many a filmic entree: Frankie and Johnny in Clair de Lune, Deluxe Combo Platter, Heavy, Eric Bross’s Restaurant, Patrick Hasson's Waiting, as well as (and not to be confused with) Waiting ... by Rob McKittrick, an ensemble comedy about a day in the life of the staff at a cheesy fern bar.

After a night of sex, booze and drugs, Shenaniganz employees show up to work allegedly still recovering from hangovers. (If they didn't overtly declare their toilet-hugging misery, the mostly half-baked acting certainly would not clue viewers in.) And oh, those garden-variety characters! Self-proclaimed perv Monty (Ryan Reynolds) finds temporary diversion from a jailbait dilemma by showing trainee Mitch (John Francis Daley) the ropes. Monty matter-of-factly asks, "How do you feel about male frontal nudity?" The frat-house initiation for waiters at this joint apparently entails mastering the Puppetry of the Penis, which cook Raddimus (Luis Guzman) eventually demonstrates for Mitch with a piece of uncooked chicken leg and its loosely attached skin. Meanwhile, the hopelessly non-committal Dean (Justin Long) reassesses his priorities as he faces a pending promotion and the disheartening news of a former classmate pulling down a $48,000 salary fresh out of college.

In similar workplace ensemble comedies such as Clerks and Empire Records, characters struggle feverishly against tight deadlines to attain their goals. But McKittrick's film lacks the same narrative momentum as it dishes out very little plot. These slackers are just biding their time, and their boredom is infectious. Alanna Ubach's performance as a burnt-out waitress in desperate need of anger management stands out as the only watchable part of the film. The jokes here are mostly stale, and the one about the "five-second rule" - a dropped piece of food can stay on the floor five seconds before it is deemed too unsanitary for serving - is a cold leftover from Hasson's eponymous 2001 film. And you just knew that the Shenaniganz staff would garnish the food with saliva, dandruff and pubic hair. If viewers must take something from this movie, the only moral they can possibly conjure up with would be to dine out at your own risk.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2005 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.