Halfway decent comedy. At last the wait is over...
There was a time, many, many jaded moons ago, when I looked forward to successive throwaway comedies as much as the next man. Those days are long gone. Imagine, if you will, having to sit through not just the films you thought looked good and were then disappointed to discover sucked, but also all the ones you knew were going to smoke monkey pole in the first place. Paid or unpaid, amateur or professional, welcome to the world of the critic. A world where teen comedy is looked upon in pretty much the same way as horror; i.e. detested, loathed and generally cursed beyond all reasonable boundaries in muffled tones of gradually dwindling restraint, somewhere middle-centre in the auditorium from where anyone over the age of twenty presents an easy target to popcorn-throwing pre-teens who've sneaked in by wearing their mother's makeup, and/or giving the ticket guy who is an older brother of a friend from school a blow job a few days prior.
It is with no small amount of surprise then that I discover myself rather enjoying Waiting..., a film which I now owe a rather large apology. I can be excused somewhat from this by the massively lame trailer, the marketing men behind which were clearly part of some Youth Training scheme or another. And while it's not exactly Citizen Kane I'm still man enough to admit when I'm wrong. Waiting..., I am very, very sorry and I stand corrected. Executed somewhere between the styles of American Pie and the somewhat superior Office Space, here we have a film that very nearly succeeds in walking the finest of lines between social comment and gross-out teen comedy. The ever dependable Ryan Reynolds plays Monty, a long term employee of the local Shenaniganz restaurant who is a bit of a player with the ladies and is surrounded by all manner of freaks and geeks, all with varying reasons for having slipped into their current profession.
Stereotypes are largely the order of the day (no pun intended) from Dan Koechner as sad, lifeless manager Dan to Alanna Ubach's nerve-shredded, chain smoking Naomi and a confusingly second-billed Anna Faris as, well, someone who doesn't actually do all that much. Still, playing to stereotype is something upon which comedy has traditionally always been based, and there's enough conviction on the part of the players here that if the characters they inhabit sometimes go over the top then at least it's in an amusing fashion, and that's certainly preferable to having it the other way around. Amidst all the fun, games, arguments, shouting and neurosis however writer and director Robert McKittrick attempts to provide the movie with an emotional resonance via the inclusion of Justin Long as Dean, a young man who despite achieving good grades in school has fallen somewhat by the wayside.
It proves a savvy move and, while not exactly setting the world alight, it affords the audience a chance to engage their emotions if not their brains for five minutes should they choose to do so, as Dean struggles with his under-achievement and the nagging feeling most of us have to suffer to some degree that we could be making better use of our lives. Again, wisely, such soul-searching introspection is kept as brief as is necessary to keep the humour rolling along, and McKittrick's script is certainly well-paced enough to do just that, with just the right number of characters sustaining just enough plot strands that the movie never feels overwhelming, while simultaneously avoiding the trap of stagnation. Witness the antics of the kitchen staff who perpetrate the kind of acts we all suspect might go on, only with far better a sense of humour, and the wanna-be "gangsta" white kid bus boys who fantasise about hip hop honeys and smoking crack.
If there's one criticism I can think to level at an otherwise entirely affable movie it's that perhaps McKittrick's script aims a little too much of its laugh quotient at the American Pie audience, though this is perhaps just a canny concession, as the marketing would seem to suggest, to reaching as broad an audience as possible for his first feature. As a guy who laughs at children falling over in the street and other such mildly amusing asides I'm not going to pretend my sense of humour is all that sophisticated, but perhaps a little more laughs from insight into the workplace rather than just a massive running knob joke would have been preferable. Ahhhh, who am I kidding? Knob jokes are funny...
I suspect given the current economic climate of the multiplex that Waiting... will suffer from both the current wave of consumer apathy and also the onslaught of The Da Vinci Code's marketing juggernaut. This is indeed a great shame. Waiting... isn't going to win any awards, but it deserves your cash a hell of a lot more than most other films at the moment, and it marks a promising start for McKittrick as a man who might one day break the current mould and start providing us with an alternative to Ben bloody Stiller and his oh-so-hip "Frat Pack". And that, dear readers, can only be a good thing. Yes, it's only three stars, but three very enjoyable stars at that, and given the tosh I've been absorbing lately that's just about enough to make my week. A pleasant little surprise.
I award this movie 3 out of 5 Thank God Someone Knows What's Funny Units
Anna Faris (Serena)
Justin Long (Dean)