3 stars


15th September 2006

Kevin Smith may very well have pissed all over the chips of Waiting before it was even served up as a movie. One can almost picture the pitch to the studio: "It's kinda like that Clerks movie. Only it's set in a restaurant. And it's in colour." They may not have added "Only it's not going to be as funny. Or as twisted. Even though it desperately wants to be." But they really, really should have done.

Waiting follows one day in the lives of the staff in American restaurant, Shenaniganz. The conceit that provides most of the plot is that a new staff member is being shown the ropes by old hand Monty (Reynolds, taking the Randal role). Meanwhile, our Dante substitute (Long) spends the day wondering where it all went wrong after hearing that a former schoolfriend has just graduated from college. From these two story strands, we see the dysfunctional working lives of the cooks, busboys, waiters and waitresses (played by an assortment of second tier comic actors and actresses you can't quite name), and are invited to burst into shocked laughter.

So then: this is a movie covering ground already mapped out to perfection by Kevin Smith. However, it's not hugely fair to condemn it simply because it's already been done. How does it stand up on it's own merits?

Well...I liked it. It's an undemanding, uncomplicated sort of film; kinda like Clerks' little brother with Downs Syndrome. True, Ryan Reynolds plays the same character he's played in every movie from Van Wilder onwards, but when he's so ridiculously likeable, is that really such a bad thing? Yes, Waiting relies on some crudely drawn stereotypes; psycho waitress, evil-minded and horny chefs (the brief scenes between Luis Guizman's chef and his girl in the cinema and the church caused me to pause the DVD for 10 minutes due to unseemly giggling), zen cleaners and a manager whose only validation in life is the power his position gives him... they are all present and correct.

But they are played with gusto by all involved. This has the same sort of feel as Anchorman, in that one gets the impression that everyone had a riotous amount of fun making it. All the scenes one would expect from a comedy about a restaurant are present and correct; the bitchy customers, the poor tippers, and the grotesque revenge inflicted on them by means of bodily fluids are pretty much a given. The creative ways to make the day seem more tolerable also amuse; I for one will be attempting to implement the penis-showing game as an office tension breaker at my place of work (the 'bat-wing' method so-named due to its veiny appearance).

It also takes some surprising risks. There is a pre-occupation (an obsession in fact) over 20 and 30-something men having sex with High School girls. Pretty daring in today's conservative climate, and perhaps the only thing in the whole movie that is handled with something approaching tact and realism (albeit with a total absence of sensitivity). It also risks alienating what I would guess to be its target audience with its contemptuous portrayal of the young, white, middle class wigga busboys. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I like to think that, as the movie is one giant "Fuck you!" to awkward customers, the busboys represented an equally huge Fuck You to the studio execs who doubtless asked for changes to be made to appeal to the right demographic.

So yeah, I've seen better movies of this type. I've also seen far worse. If you're looking for something to keep you moist until Clerks 2 assaults our good-taste glands, you would do well to give this a chance.

Waiting... is released on DVD on 25 September.

More:  Comedy  Dvd
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