1 star (out of four)
For your own good, a warning: "Waiting ," a "comedy" written and directed by former Orlando waiter Rob McKittrick and starring "Van Wilder's" Ryan Reynolds, is not the film adaptation of Ha Jin's critically acclaimed novel "Waiting," a love story set against China's changing political landscape.
"Waiting "and this is the last time ellipses will appear in this review, so savor ittakes place over a single shift at ShenaniganZ, a TGI Friday's/Ruby Tuesday's/Applebee's clone where Product Pride and Portion-consciousness is the manager's motivational mantra.
Dry-witted Monty (Reynolds) is the waitstaff womanizer eager to impart his restaurant wisdom to new trainee Mitch (John Francis Daley) and hop into bed with almost-18 hostess, name not important.
Monty's best pal Dean (Justin Long) is going through one of those mid-20s where-am-I-going-who-am-I crises, tipped off by his mom's run-in with an old classmate who just graduated with an engineering degree from a university while Dean can't get through junior college.
Together with two hot blond waitresses (Ann Faris and Kaitlin Doubleday), the token lesbian bartender and a demented kitchen staff led by five-second-rule king Raddimus (Luis Guzman), Dean and Monty butter up tables for tips and fine-tune strategy for The Game.
OK, The Game: It's not pretty, it's not easy to write about and worst of all, it's not funny. The object is to surprise a male co-worker with a creative flash of private parts, and the payoff is that part-flasher gets to call part-gawker gay. It is, as the ladies call it, "an exercise in retarded homophobic futility," though they say this because it's in the script to get laughs, and I say this because it is true.
"Waiting" could have been a funny movie. There are a few truths about food-service that McKittrick gets right but doesn't fully exploit, such as the manager who, though a glorified, 40-year-old waiter, sees himself as King. And how a bunch of clueless, horny young hourlies bond over an eight-hour dinner rush, when the whole wide world comes down to the decision between baked potato, fries or rice pilaf.
Then there are the truths McKittrick milks dry, most of which take place in the kitchen, where bitter cooks let loose their rage via bodily fluids on buffalo wings. This is, to paraphrase some pretty little ladies, retarded, and also not funny because it is pushed way too far.
Remember "Office Space," with Jennifer Aniston as a flair-wearing Chotchkie's waitress? See, writer/director Mike Judge got his chain-dining establishment just right, honing in with accuracy on one indisputable fact: Everyone is faking it. Judge knows that work can be a demeaning, frustrating and futile effort, so when IT guys kick the crap out of a copy machine or a boss talks for 20 minutes without saying a single thing of significance, you smile.
It's these specifics that McKittrick misses. Had he written some, I think his young cast could have pulled it off, especially Reynolds, who is clearly an apprentice at the School of Vince Vaughn, fast-talking and sarcastic. Now he just needs to slow down, show some heart, stop overcompensating.
But in a movie infatuated with a fictional genitalia-flashing contest, this is a tall order.
Written and directed by Rob McKittrick; photographed by Matthew Irving; edited by David Finfer and Andy Blumenthal; production designed by Devorah Herbert; music by Adam Gorgoni; produced by Adam Rosenfelt, Stavros Merjos, Jay Rifkin, Jeff Balis, Rob Green. A Lions Gate Films release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:33. MPAA rating: R (strong crude and sexual humor, pervasive language and some drug use).
Monty - Ryan Reynolds
Dean - Justin Long
Mitch - John Francis Daley
Serena - Anna Faris
Dan - David Koechner
Raddimus - Luis GuzmanCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times