Film Reviews

You Got Served

All the publicity for Waiting . . . has focused on the scene in which an annoying customer at the fictional chain restaurant ShenaniganZ sends her food back to the kitchen, where it meets with all sorts of nasty modifications, courtesy of some dandruff, pubic hair, and mucus. The teaser posters depicted similarly defaced meals, indicating that perhaps the entire movie would be a one-joke deal, and that one joke would be one that practically served as a throwaway in Fight Club.

In fact, the bulk of the trailer comes from one scene in the actual movie. The reason for this is that the humor in the rest of the film is frequently so raunchy and profane that there's just no way to make an acceptable, approved-for-all-audiences preview that accurately represents the story.

Not that there really is any kind of story: Waiting . . . begins with a drunken party and ends at almost exactly the same place. The script ignores the standard three-act formula, with little structure and virtually no character arcs. Many of the dilemmas that are established never pay off, and there is no clear protagonist or antagonist. To make matters even murkier, the movie is poorly shot in visually uninteresting locations with constant soft focus.

That said, it's also damn funny. Clearly inspired by Clerks and Office Space, it's worthy to stand alongside them as a new classic of the "sucky job" subgenre. If you've ever worked at a restaurant, you know many of these characters, and you also likely know the sort of vulgar humor that young people with unoccupied minds tend to come up with during the downtime of their boring minimum-wage routine. The major pastime of this crew is a contest simply called The Game, in which the object is for a guy to trick a fellow employee into looking at his genitals, at which point the winner gets to kick the loser in the ass and repeatedly call him a fag. Head chef Raddimus (Luis Guzman) thinks about the contest way too much, and has actually developed a multi-pronged strategy.

Then there's the new blood, a nervous nebbish named Mitch (John Francis Daley), whose entire orientation consists of Ryan Reynolds' Monty instilling homosexual panic in him. In most movies, Mitch would be the lead, but here he doesn't get much to do. Reynolds, on the other hand . . . well, bless him for coming back to comedy. Ill-fated turns in Blade: Trinity and the remake of The Amityville Horror didn't go so well, because it's not in his nature to be serious onscreen. Here, he lets his inner frat boy fly, not unlike Jason Lee in some of the earlier Kevin Smith movies. And he only shows off his abs once.

Jeepers Creepers star Justin Long gets the only thing close to what some might call character development, as Dean, the sensitive guy who has to decide whether or not he really wants the promotion to assistant manager being offered to him by dumbass head honcho Dan (David Koechner). But even this isn't especially important -- the scene in which Monty and ex-lover Serena (Anna Faris) verbally spar over Monty's technique in the sack is given more weight than Dean's ego woes. Not to mention it's the first time in a movie that Faris has come close to seeming smart.

Then there are the adolescent wanna-be-gangsta busboys (Max Kasch and Andy Milonakis, who bust a pretty funny rhyme over the end credits), the obnoxious mean-spirited cook (Dane Cook, welcoming new recruits with the line "Welcome to Thunderdome, bitch!"), the rageaholic waitress (Alanna Ubach), and Chi McBride in an amusing send-up of the Wise Old Black Man archetype.

Humor is subjective, of course, and if you're easily offended by profanity or dick jokes, Waiting . . . is certainly not for you. There are no moral lessons learned, and while there is an underlying theme of potential pathos to the lives of people who work annoying jobs all day and get wasted every night, any hint of depth seems almost accidental. Writer-director Rob McKittrick doesn't have any visual flair at all, but he can write jokes and create characters as well as the best in the business. If he can get his future scripts to someone better equipped to direct them, watch out. In the meantime, be sure to stick around till the very, very end of the end credits to catch everything.

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Luke Y. Thompson