Screens Waiting

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Trash talk and potty mouths make for a tiresome time in the restaurant biz are you being dished?

Dir. Rob McKittrick; writ. McKittrick; feat. Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Justin Long, David Koechner, Luis Gúzman, Chi McBride, John Francis Daley (R)

The "New Job Dream" is proof that we all have a little sado-masochist lurking inside: The restless sleep after the first several days on a new job, which inevitably leads to a nightmarish recreation of the day's labor, in which there is no break for lunch, no end to the stream of customers, and, most frightening of all, no foreseeable end to the Shift from Hell. It's all just a dream, thankfully, but anyone wishing to experience the same tribulations while conscious can sit through Rob McKittrick's Waiting...

On a typical evening shift, the employees of the Bennigan's clone Shenanigans include smug de facto leader Monty (Ryan Reynolds), hapless best friend Dean (Justin Long), head cook Raddimus (Luis Guzman), and trainee Mitch (John Francis Daley), whose wide-eyed initiation into the puzzlingly genital-laden world of the service industry mirrors our own shock at the staff's extreme behavior.

Assuming any of it is shocking. Among The Penis Game (a homophobic alternative to SlugBug), an examination of the catch-all properties of female pubic hair, teenage busboys with pretensions to ghetto authenticity, and abuse of abusive customers' food that includes phlegm and pubes (who knew a few tufts of hair could prove such a resourceful theme!), there is not one original gag. It's all been done before, and to greater effect, in Clerks and Office Space - writer/director McKitrick's obvious inspirations - not to mention the innumerable Meatballs and Porky's clones.

Perhaps more interesting than actually watching Waiting... is reading McKittrick's production blog on the film's official website. The entire journey of the film from personal experience to motion picture is laid bare with candor that seems, at times, to undermine any attempt to read Waiting... as something besides a venomous rant at the food industry. The characters are so thin, and their outlooks so bleak, it's tempting to see the Shenanigan's experience as an examination of the service industry and how what should be a fairly innocuous interaction between patron and employee ends up demeaning both and encouraging the kind of aggressively defensive behavior that causes auto accidents and starts wars. But after McKittrick explains that when a friend read the script and claimed the high-strung, perpetually pissed Naomi was based on a high-strung, perpetually pissed co-worker, he knew "the characters had universal appeal," the film shrinks back into proportion and Waiting... is just the feel-bad movie of the year.

When all the filth and fury has ended, it's best just to take the Shenanigan's employees' mantra ("Don't f*** with the people who handle your food") to heart and remember that, while waiting tables is a difficult, dirty, thankless, low-paying job, so is cleaning a movie theater. So, please, place your garbage in the proper receptacle, and have a nice day.

By Aaron Block

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