You could tell by the way that sassy twentysomething waitress walked off with your food that it was a bad idea to ask for bacon instead of grilled onions and a side of Thousand Island salad dressing. We have all heard the urban myths about the grotesqueries of the food service industry and we all know not to order the clam chowder, ever. Hold on, what about their side of the story? What would that twentysomething say in defense of herself and her place of business? “Waiting…” is the film that finally gives all those good people a voice and comedically capitalizes on our fears about those myths.
Starring Justin Long, Anna Faris and Ryan Reynolds, “Waiting…” is made in the same vein as “Road Trip” or “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.” The formula is simple: Directionless twenty-year-olds struggle through their monotonous lives, eventually find themselves and come to some larger realization after a series of laughs and adventures. First-time writer/director Rob McKittrick does a good job injecting this story of restaurant rapscallions with a fair amount of heart, along with enough dick and ball jokes to make Grandma have a second stroke.
The story opens with Dean (Long), an intelligent youth who, for whatever reasons, cannot pull his life together. After being heckled by his mother about returning to college as a full-time student, Dean begins another frustrating day at Shenanigan’s. This knock-off of Chili’s or Applebee’s – take your pick – is run by a particularly twisted group of misfits, headed by Monty (Reynolds). Monty, whose pedophilic tendencies are one of the running gags in the film, is the senior waiter at Shenanigan’s. The film switches back and forth between following Dean on what will become his last day at work and following Monty, who is in charge of training the new member of the Shenanigan’s team. As the day progresses, we are introduced to the whole roster of employees. There is the uncomfortably philosophical dishwasher named Bishop, the high-strung, veteran waitress Naomi, and Calvin, who has a fear of using urinals with no privacy barriers. Each character has a familiarity about them that makes you recall that one guy or girl you knew in your art history section. Over the course of the workday, customers come and go, while the audience watches as the employees of Shenanigan’s sadistically wait on them. From birthday boys to rude, impatient businesswomen to Germans, each is given their just desserts. Later, Dean is offered a promotion to manager. But when Dean waits on an old acquaintance who has finished college, he is inspired to quit his job and go back to school. “Waiting…” manages to capture many of the little nuances in people’s personalities as well as in modern-day life. Watching these people work feels a lot like hanging out with your high-school friends from back home.
Essentially, “Waiting…” is gross-out joke after gross-out joke simply for the shock value, with a few legitimate jokes thrown in. At its core, Dean’s story has enough heart to get the movie over the finish line, but not enough to make you want to see it again. Who knows if all those stories about the service industry at restaurants are true? More importantly, who cares? “Waiting…” transplants ideas from today’s culture and materializes them on-screen. Oh, and don’t forget to tip your server.