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By Pete Vonder Haar | October 9, 2005

Just so all of you know where I’m coming from here; I was a waiter and a bartender for about four years. And while I’m not saying it’s necessary for you to have endured a job in the food and beverage industry to enjoy “Waiting…,” the debut of writer/director Rob McKittrick, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

“Waiting…” is set in a T.G.I Friday’s clone called Shenanigans, where a crew of primarily white waitstaff and cooks attempt to amuse themselves and others while slogging through another day of serving life’s rich pageant of restaurant clientele. Naturally, a movie showing polite, satisfied patrons would make for an exceedingly boring film, so McKittrick loads the place with nightmare customers, the better to demonstrate how unwise it is to aggravate your server.

The film revolves around Monty (Ryan Reynolds, playing himself), the glib veteran who specializes in banging underage girls, and Dean (Justin Long), the former high school honors student wondering what the hell happened to the last four years of his life. Surrounding them are a menagerie of fellow servers (Anna Faris, Alanna Ubach, Patrick Benedict), cooks (Luis Guzman, Dane Cook), busboys (Max Kasch, Andy Milonakis), a sage dishwasher (Chi McBride), and the patented a*****e manager (David Koechner). The various set pieces comprising the film are tenuously linked by the introduction of Mitch (John Francis Daley), the new guy, who serves as our eyes into the sordid world of food service.

Plot is sacrificed for vulgarity and gross-out humor, not that I’m complaining. And while “Waiting…” goes further than any I’ve seen in depicting the type of customer abuse that goes on in restaurants – including several things they couldn’t show you in the previews – it still only scratches the surface. It also bears mentioning that the kind of extreme behavior exhibited here isn’t the norm, but specially reserved for those who, as Monty tells us, “f**k with the people who handle their food.” In order to keep the pace lively, a month’s worth of unpleasant customer experiences are condensed into a single day, For example, there’s The Extreme Undertipper, She Who Cannot Be Satisfied, and The People Who Arrive Three Minutes Before Closing.

Other aspects of the restaurant experience depicted are more commonplace, including the intra-restaurant trysts, smoking pot by the dumpsters, and drinking yourself into a stupor every night. If McKittrick didn’t work at a restaurant himself, he must have lived with someone who did.

In “Waiting…” we have another entry in the comedy sub-genre of movies about shitty jobs like “Office Space,” though it bears the most resemblance to “Clerks” (Kevin Smith is also thanked in the end credits). It’s inferior to both of these, mostly due to the film’s uneven nature. “Waiting…” is only intermittently funny, but when it is, it’s hilarious. The lack of plot structure will also be an issue for some people. I’m recommending it, but mostly because so much of it was recognizable to me, personally.

“Waiting…” thrives on the juvenile, even more so than “Old School” or “Wedding Crashers,” which at least had an ostensible maturation period for their protagonists. Sure, a few characters “grow up.” A little. Monty takes the high road and decides to wait for the cute hostess to turn 18, and Dean finally takes a step towards getting his s**t together, but as we see by the more or less identical parties that serve as bookends for the movie, life will go on as usual for just about everyone else. That alone makes it a more realistic representation of working life than most.

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