Waiting... (2005) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for pervasive language, sexual references, crude humor, and drug use
Running Time: 93 min.

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long, Anna Faris, David Koechner, Luis Guzman, Chi McBride, John Francis Daley, Kaitlin Doubleday, Robert Patrick Benedict, Alanna Ubach, Vanessa Lengies, Jordan Ladd
Director: Rob McKittrick
Screenplay: Rob McKittrick
Review published October 29, 2005

Writer-director Rob McKittrick borrows a page from Kevin Smith on how to make a first feature film with Waiting..., a very Clerks-like offering that makes up for a lack of story with goofy characters and envelope-pushing innuendo.  It occasionally amuses, but not really as much as you ever think it really should, and even if it sports professional actors and higher production values, it just can't match Clerks in solid laughs, inspiration, or chutzpah.

Like Clerks, the events of Waiting... take place primarily in one central business location.  Imagine one of those trendy chain restaurants like Chili's or TGI Fridays, and replace the name with Shenanigan's -- staffed mostly by college-age waiters and chefs, most of them viewing this as a way to make extra money until they move on to what they really want to do in life.  The staff do take pride in providing good service up to a point -- just don't piss off the waiter or come in just before closing, or they'll take it out on you in ways you'd rather not know. 

You can't really call them professional, but there is a unity among the employees, most of whom have bonded by partying together after hours or playing silly games with each other (in this film, the game involves trying to get fellow employees to unwittingly see the participants genitalia).  There's only one plot resolution that remains unresolved throughout the film, involving Dean (Long, Dodgeball) , the bright and talented waiter that has been offered a chance at being assistant manager, although he knows in his heart that taking the job would mean he's likely to stay there indefinitely.

They say that comedy is all about timing, and that adage proves very true here.  It is clear that McKittrick does have some funny observations and outrageously ballsy characters, but there is something in the unpolished nature of the movie that leaves the timing slightly off.  This is one of those cases where you can see the humor of the situation or dialogue more than you actually laugh at it, and given the gross excess to which McKittrick is willing to go to get a laugh, you should really expect nothing less to be doubled over for all the effort.  In fact, most of the time you will end up wincing at some of the gags, many of them as crass and nasty as can be.  Vulgarity will only take you so far in comedy -- at some point the novelty wears off and the audience realizes there's not much talent there.

Waiting... still remains modestly appealing because we like these sorts of occupational comedies with kooky characters, but the comedy just isn't sharp or clever enough to really get you fully on its side and take you for a ride.  Clerks and Office Space have been often imitated over the years, and even though those films have their share of flaws, none of the pretenders to the raunchy work comedy throne have been able to topple them in terms of quotability or pure laughter.  When it comes to high-concept comedies, inspiration far exceeds imitation, Waiting... merely imitates other inspired comedies without any lasting voice of its own.   McKittrick serves up the kind of tainted meal you'd get when you thoroughly piss off your waiter.

-- Followed by a direct-to-video follow-up, Still Waiting... (2009)

 Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo