A famous quote from this movie might just sum up my experience spinning wings in hot sauce and obeying literal five-to-ten second rules at Buffalo Wild Wings (B-Dubs, to the in-crowd), as accurately as it sums up the movie itself: “Don’t f**k with the people who handle your food.” (Don’t worry — not ALL of the stuff in this movie happens in real life . . . )
Today’s food for thought: Waiting...
Release: October 7, 2005
Another gross-out comedy to satisfy my summer-after-graduation-from-high-school palate, Waiting… has become gospel to any who have worked in the restaurant industry and who have had a nasty taste left in their mouth because of it. It’s not a particularly well-crafted piece, but it is alarmingly accurate in some sense. It is also pretty hilarious in spots, as well, and I still keep it in high regard when thinking of all the gross-outs that I have seen.
Employees of Shenanigans — a fictional knock-off of Chili’s and other such establishments — more or less hate their jobs, but it’s what they’ve got. So they deal. Rob McKittrick directs his talented cast as they walk through a day-in-the-life story about the frustrations of working a dead-end job. Along the way we deal with difficult customers (the source of that excellent quote that is used in my intro), employee relationships, and all the while trying to answer the question of “is this what I want to do with my life?” It is certainly a cliched, hackneyed thought, but McKittrick approaches the matter lightheartedly to affect us with just the right amount of poignancy and disgust.
Justin Long plays Dean, a nice enough guy who knows he’s seriously shortchanging himself in terms of reaching his career potential. He’s become comfortable in the routines and familiar faces that grace the premises of this burger-and-beer establishment. With the likes of Monty (Ryan Reynolds), his best friend that also happens to be a supreme underachiever and something of a womanizer; Serena (Anna Faris), a cool chick who’s “way too cool” to be working at this place; and Amy (Kaitlin Doubleday), who’s his major crush, Dean finds it difficult to move on and do that next great thing.
The movie takes place over the course of a single day, and it factors in all of the nuances of working in a restaurant. The hostess (Vanessa Lengies) is extremely professional, as she lusts after Monty despite the (illegal) age difference; the bus boys are. . .well, whiter than white trash but still dream of becoming a successful rapping duo (this was just a brilliant use of Andy Milonakis and Max Kasch, as Nick and T-Dog respectively); management is reasonable (David Koechner is Dan, a General Manager who seems to be more immature than most of his staff); and the kitchen staff is matured and remarkably cooperative. The kitchen crew is the source of one of Waiting…‘s longest running jokes — a game in which members of the kitchen staff will expose their genitals at random and if another employee sees them doing so, they get kicked in the ass and called a variety of homophobic slurs. It’s a perfectly functional environment, if I’ve ever seen one. And oh yeah, that Naomi girl (Alanna Ubach). She’s downright hilarious in this movie as that one member on staff who can’t f**king take it any longer. A constant stress mess, she’s always seen clutching a cigarette and muttering some combination of obscenities under her breath about the latest annoying customer. She adds just another level of crazy to the staff, and for me, it was one of the more memorable touches.
The icing on this cake is the overriding plot device McKittrick chooses in revealing the whole process. Using Monty as the vehicle for our Tour-de-Shenanigans, and a new hire in Mitch (John Francis Daley), we explore the ins-and-outs of the small building and it is through these two we get to intimately know the staff. . . some better than others. Considering the circumstances, Daley’s character is limited in his responses to it all, and makes for a second effective long-running joke. It all culminates at a party at someone’s house wherein the entire staff joins and lets off some steam. I could go on and on about this scene, but in keeping this relatively brief and spoiler-free, I’ll choose not to. You’re welcome.
There’s no denying that Waiting… succeeds 95% because of its cast. The script is nothing remarkable and the jokes, well you’ve heard a lot of them somewhere else at some point. The day-in-the-life formula has been used better before, but this is an interesting environment in which to apply that simplistic of a storyline since most of us at some point in our lives have eaten in a sit-down, franchised restaurant. However (and this is a big exception), the level of enjoyment probably increases tenfold if you’ve ever been more than just a customer in a restaurant. No matter if you’re currently in the industry or not, you may find yourself repulsed by what you see going on in Shenanigans’ kitchen, or you may find yourself doubled-over in pain from laughter. Either reaction constitutes a more personal experience with these things than if you were just the casual diner. The humor is low-brow one way or another, but a lot of what makes Waiting… a worthwhile experience is its exaggeration of the truth.
Recommendation: As previously stated, it helps if you find yourself in the specific target audience for this movie. If you’ve worked shifts (or doubles) serving tables, then you’ll feel some of these people’s pain. You may not be able to identify with their unique “issues” — who among us has ever been subjected to “The Goat?” — but I think a lot of us can identify with being grossly undertipped or underpaid. Long’s character takes the brunt of the emotional storm, and if you like Justin Long, you’ll probably enjoy this movie a fair amount.
Running Time: 94 mins.
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