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Waiting...

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 10/06/05 23:48:32

"Turns out that WATCHING the 'Waiting' is the hardest part"
1 stars (Sucks)

The new gross-out comedy “Waiting” is meant to show the wacky goings-on during one long shift at Shenanigans, one of those casual-dining restaurants where everybody likes to pretend they know your name and where every third menu item is inevitably described as being “zesty.” The various staff members are the familiar archetypes for such a film; the Wacky Quipster Ringleader (Ryan Reynolds), the Mope Unsure of What To Do With His Life (Justin Long), the Hot Sarcastic Girl (Anna Faris), the Hot Sweet Girl (Kaitlin Doubleday), the Not-Quite-As-Hot Bitchy Girl (Allana Ubach), the Hot Underage Girl (Vanessa Lengies), the Hot Lesbian (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the New Guy (John Francis Daley), the Lovelorn Schmuck (Patrick Benedict), the Dopey Adult (David Koechner), the Horny Latino (Luis Guzman) and, of course, the Black Guy Who Serves as the Dispenser of Sage Wisdom and Advice (Chi McBride). This isn’t a cast–this is a Whitman’s Sampler of sitcom characters lacking only the Wacky Neighbor and the Adorable Child to complete the set.

Although there is a stab at a plot here and there dealing with the mope still deciding whether to go back to college or to take the assistant manager position that he has just been offered, most of the running time is dedicated watching the characters goof off, hit on the underage girl, gather in the center of the restaurant for long, loud and detailed discussions of their sex lives and do unspeakable things to the orders of especially obnoxious customers. In one “hilarious” running subplot, many of the characters engage in a game where they try to get the others to unwittingly stare at their bare genitals–if they are successful, they get to kick the loser in the hinder while calling them “fag.” Don’t worry–according to them, this isn’t homophobic, though there is never any evidence offered to lead to a contrary conclusion.

If the premise of “Waiting” sounds more than a little familiar to some of you, that is because it is essentially a carbon copy of Kevin Smith brilliant 1994 service-industry comedy “Clerks,” right down to the inclusion of a couple of stoner side characters who stand off to the side and practice their mad rap skilz while doing whippit hits. That film also used the idea of overly educated people trying to entertain themselves while stuck in meaningless service jobs as a springboard for long dialogue scenes in which every possible topic under the sun–from bizarre sexual practices to the ethics of using third-party contractors to build the Death Star–was subjected to endless discussion and speculation. Although crudely filmed, it struck a chord with a lot of people because a.) the dialogue, though occasionally a bit too “written” to be believed, was really funny and b.) it tapped into the rage/boredom of a generation doomed by an unsteady economy into taking the kind of jobs that they entered college to avoid in the first place.

Unfortunately, in crafting his own version of “Clerks” here, writer-director Rob McKittrick has taken the words but not the music and the result is vulgar without ever being the least bit funny. In “Clerks,” when a character expressed shock at the number of people that his girlfriend performed a certain act with, it worked because it was funny while taking potshots at male insecurity. By contrast, the scenes in “Waiting” in which the characters discuss their own sexual histories, they sound forced and flat–as if they were there only because they appeared in “Clerks.” Furthermore, while I can believe that people in a desolate convenience store might get into such discussions in order to stave off boredom, I don’t believe that a group of waiters and waitress are likely to gather into a group in the dining room of a restaurant to do something similar. The only thing that this film really has in common with “Clerks,” in the end, is a similarly appalling visual look and even that aspect kind of worked in Smith’s film because his security-camera-influenced style fit the material.

The other thing that “Clerks” had going for it was a collection of appealingly oddball characters that you actually felt some kind of kinship with. “Waiting,” on the other hand, is filled with walking cliches who deliver their one bit of schtick and then fade back into the woodwork. By the end, when one character finally tells off the rest of them for being one-dimensional twits (“You’re the smartest guy at Shenanigans–that’s like being the smartest kid with Down’s Syndrome!”), it works for a moment because it taps into what anyone still remaining in the theater must be feeling as well. (Of course, upon reflection, the only reason the scene exists is because there was a similar one in “Clerks.”) This is a shame because there are some talented people here–including such usually reliable players as Guzman, McBride and Faris, who should really think twice about appearing in any more comedies in which body secretions get as much screen time as her character–slumming in parts far beneath their talents. As for the walking smirk that is Ryan Reynolds, he once again trots out his wry cynic routine–the same thing that he did in “Van Wilder” and “Blade 3"–in his bid to be considered the new Chevy Chase. So far, the only thing that he really has in common with Chase is the fact that he hasn’t made very many good movies either.

Because it is a bad-taste comedy in an era in which every few weeks seems to bring a new contender for the gross-out crown, “Waiting” is chock-full of would-be “shocking” humor that is so desperate to offend that it all comes off as just kind of pathetic. The jokes here are sexist, misanthropic, jingoistic and homophobic and when McKittrick runs out of that material, he isn’t above bringing in an old man off the street to indulge in some Alzheimer’s-related wackiness. Strangely, the pure gross-out humor that the commercials seem to be pushing–the tainting of the food–only occurs in one scene and it isn’t particularly funny because it doesn’t come up with anything that we haven’t seen done a dozen times before. Throughout the 90-odd minutes of the film, I laughed exactly once–the Ryan Reynolds character tries to get a rise out of his mother by making up a story about spending an evening of debauchery involving “me and the hooker” and Mom, as bored by his antics as we are, wearily corrects him with “The hooker and I.” That’s right–the single funniest moment in “Waiting” comes from a grammar lesson.

A couple of weeks ago, you may recall, I gave a review of the Jenny McCarthy gross-out comedy “Dirty Love” that was, unlike most of the notices it received, not entirely unfavorable. As a result, many friends and colleagues have questioned my taste, my sanity and which body part I wrote the review with in the first place. My argument to them was the same that I laid out in the review: the film is unabashedly gross and an aesthetic nightmare but I thought that it still had a certain charm and likability that kept it from slipping over completely to the cinematic dark side. Without those elements, that film would have been an excruciating and unwatchable nightmare. In other words, it would have been more like “Waiting.” This is the kind of film that is so bad that you find yourself saying a little prayer for the souls of editors Andy Blumenthal and David Finfer because they had to sift through all the hours of footage shot for this film in order to come up with the finished product now soiling multiplexes.

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