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Published: Friday, 10/7/2005

Movie review: Waiting **

BY CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

More people will see a movie than will ever read a nonfiction expose as popular as Kitchen Confidential. And for that matter, more people will turn out for a comedy than for a documentary as big as Super-Size Me.

So there should be something genuinely shocking to at least a few of you about the B-comedy Waiting, which opens today and would like to do for restaurants and those who slave in them what Office Space and The Office did for our cubicle culture.

I never worked in the food preparation industry or ran a sidewalk lemonade stand, but I did have friends who worked in New England clam shacks in the summer. They would gladly tell you stories of how they swatted flies into the clam-cake batter or how the sweat would run off their brows into the lobster salad or how the chowder might contain clams or it might contain forget it. Stories like this, and worse, are so common you wonder why anybody eats out at all.

Why it's taken the movies so long to catch on and exploit ourWhy it's taken the movies so long to catch on and exploit our fear of what the waiter is doing to the hanger steak we just sent back - frankly, it's either an oversight or studios are just being courteous to theater owners, who rely on their concession stands to break even.

Waiting knows no such restraint. It is, as one character complains of another's actions, "an exercise in retarded, homophobic futility" - but one, in a post-Wedding Crashers sense, that seems to think acknowledging the flaws of its characters and its own lack of imagination is the same as having an imagination.

This frankly deeply disappoints, because we don't get nearly enough workplace comedies - especially ones like Office Space that find their jokes not in exaggerating the situation but in parodying how banal it is.

Written and directed by a former waiter, Rob McKittrick, Waiting gets so much spot-on, and assembles such a promising cast (including Anna Faris, Luis Guzman, and Chi McBride) for such a piddly flick, you wish he'd made a documentary about the life of a waiter or just hired someone else to write the jokes.

The story is so boilerplate it kills any momentum the film builds: A waiter (Justin Long) wonders if the job he got four years ago as an after-school thing has turned into a life-destroying dead end.

Still, the details are evocative: the overflowing ashtrays back in the employee lounge, the assorted Made-in-Taiwan vintage Americana hanging on the walls, the big-box stores in the neighborhood, the soul-sucking manager who wields a pathetic amount of power as if he were CEO - even the film's chain restaurant has one of those ridiculous spellings that marketing teams use to suggest their potato skins have edge: ShenaniganZ, and its smarmy, irresponsible Chevy-Chase-Vince-Vaughn type is Ryan Reynolds, who comes off like Tim Matheson's understudy.

A couple of quick notes: Waiting was shot in a great restaurant town, New Orleans - and none of its rowdy insight rubbed off. Also, a credit mentions that the script was inspired by another workplace comedy, Clerks. But the film unintentionally tells its own story: "The difference between ordinary and extraordinary," the manager says, "is a little extra."

Contact Christopher Borrelli at: cborrelli@theblade.com

or 419-724-6117.



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