Hippo Manchester
October 13, 2005

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Waiting… (R)

The Graduate meets American Pie in the Van Wilder in Food Service that is Waiting…, a movie that moves Ryan Reynolds even closer to his Will Ferrell fate.

Actually, Waiting… is neither as smart nor as significant as The Graduate nor as top-notch gross-out as American Pie, but you know that that particular substance-meets-poop-humor combination was the one used to sell the project. You can see in its every scene a longing on the part of Waiting… to be something more than the sum of its snot-in-the-food and sex-in-the-bathroom joke parts.

And, in the movie’s defense, Reynolds, who here plays Monty, the just-this-side-of-sad veteran of the food chain ShenaniganZ, can give some entertaining deadpan line readings. And Justin Long, who plays Dean, a kid who feels his life is slipping away, does a great job at bringing humanity to the role of callow youth looking for something better in life (he was consistently one of the two reasons to watch Ed). But in between their yin of smarmy humor and yang of geeky self-doubt, the movie packs in a boatload of leftover National Lampoon humor and unused gags from a Saturday Night Live bit.

Dean begins his day working at ShenaniganZ (a place where they may not make you wear pieces of flair but they definitely want you to give 110 percent) with an offer of a promotion to assistant manager. The promotion, along with the news that a high school acquaintance has graduated college and landed a good job, shakes the still-working-on-his-AA waiter up. Is this, he thinks looking around the office of tries-too-hard manager Dan (David Koechner), my future?

As he deliberates this possibility, Dean watches Monty teach newcomer Mitch (John Francis Daley) about the ins and outs of food service and specifically about the Penis Game, a morale-boosting ongoing competition among the male wait and cook staff. (The goal is to surprise another man with a view of your penis. The surpriser gets to kick the surprisee in the pants and call him gay for looking at another man’s frank and beans. Naturally, the more elaborately arranged the man’s equipment is, the more kicks he gets to administer.)

There’s some stuff in there about a romance between Dean and waitress Amy (Kaitlain Doubleday), a hate-heat relationship between Monty and the catty Serena (Anna Faris) and other assorted intra-restaurant couplings. We get some general scenes of customers behaving badly, of the cook staff doing things to food you don’t want to know about and of the standard drug and sex humor required by law in this sort of movie, whether it fits in or not. Some of it will pull a chuckle or a smirk out of you, especially if you’ve ever donned a much-hated uniform, plastered on a big smile and gushed with enthusiasm over a turkey sandwich special. But most of it feels stagy, sketchy and pasted together, as though it were a term paper written in the wee hours after a raging party. Food service does indeed suck, especially at a corporate restaurant where Fun is part of the mandated atmospherics, and people can be horrible to their waiters without considering the consequences, but this movie only gives us the most shallow and obvious examples of this.

As with so many a comedy where more effort has gone into marketing than creation, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve already seen the movie.