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DVD Review - Waiting... - Unrated Edition

March 18th, 2006

When Waiting... was first released into theatres it only managed to debut in a lower spot in the top ten before quickly disappearing from theatres. This was a mixed result, but better than most expected, especially given the small nature of the film. Was this just a flash in the pan, or the first step in the creation of a new cult classic? A lot of that will be determined by the 2-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD release.

Spoiler-Free Synopsis:
Writing a synopsis for Waiting... is difficult, since it really has no plot. Sure, there are a few subplots, Dean's possible promotion, the training of the New Guy... nope, that's about it. Mostly it is just a day in the life of a restaurant and the people that work there with frequent mentions of genitalia thrown in. The restaurant in question in called ShenaniganZ and it is one of those restaurants with all the crap on the wall that the management hopes will give the place atmosphere and make it look unique, but just makes it look like one of hundreds of others. The film just follows the various throughout the day, characters like Monty, the coolest guy at ShenaniganZ; Serena, his tough talking ex-girlfriend; Raddimus, the head chef and inventor of the penis showing game; Bishop, the sage-like dishwasher; Natasha, the under-aged hostess; and Mitch, the new guy.

The next section contains spoilers, click here to skip to the Special Features section.

Movie Review:
When the film first came out, it earned mostly negative reviews, especially among the cream of the crop critics. Many complained that the film lacked a plot, it was unnecessarily vulgar, it was sexist, homophobic, etc. and for the most part, they are correct. However, if you have a high tolerance for grossness, and a lowbrow sense of humor, you will find plenty to like about this movie. But all but the most diehard fans will also find more than a few complaints.

A lot of critics compared the movie to Clerks and Office Space, and it's easy to see why, but that's still unfair. While this film does send up working in a restaurant the same was Clerks and Office Space sends up working as a clerk or a cubicle jockey, Waiting... aims lower and is filled with lowbrow jokes. I think the handling of food allows for easy opportunities to be gross, and this film takes them. (The scene where the customer returns the steak hits very close to my tolerance level and I can't watch it if I'm eating.)

As I previously stated, the only real plot in the movie revolves around Dean, played by Justin Long. In an early scene, Dean learns school buddy has just graduated as an electrical engineer and is starting a high paying job. That day at work, his boss, played by David Koechner, offers him the position of assistant manager, but is this the first step to a career for Dean, or something that will trap him in ShenaniganZ forever? As far as plots go, it's not much, but it doesn't need to be. In fact, it could have been lost altogether without hurting the film that much.

The other important subplot is the training of Mitch, although here it is less about character development than it is about Monty's tour of the restaurant, which allows the film to introduce the various characters and quirks in a was that's direct without seeming artificial. Also, John Francis Daley shined in the role despite having almost no lines. For the most part he had a very subtle but effective performance.

The rest of the movie can be divided into scenes that worked and those that didn't. The dinner scene with Wendie Malick as Monty's Mom was one of the highlights of the movie. So was the big confrontation between Monty and his ex-girlfriend, Serena. The running gag with people cutting off Mitch, as well as all of Monty's double takes were funny on their own, but they really pay off in the end with Mitch's explosive rant at the party.

Some of the scenes that didn't work as well were Calvin's fretting over Christy as Calvin's storyline about his shy bladder is a lot funnier than his woman troubles storyline. It did set up the terrific confrontation scene I mentioned above and helped his character somewhat, but it could also have been trimmed. Also, quite a bit of the parts with T-Dog and Nick seemed unnecessary as all that was needed was to set up the fact that there are wannabes rap stars. That would have been enough of a setup for the rap during the end credits, which was clearly the best part of their characters. I don't care how many times I hear that Atkins line, I still laugh.

There were several other scenes that were both good and bad like the scene with the old man. On the one hand, Alzheimer jokes are pretty low, but the way it he and Monty talked, it was almost sweet. In the same category was the subplot with Natasha, the under-aged hostess, and her flirting with both Monty and Dan. I can see why a lot of people would have a problem with this, but personally I have mixed feelings. One the one hand, it did set up quite a few great scenes and while legally there is a huge difference between someone who is 18 and someone who is 17 years and 360 days, morally it is more ambiguous Of course, it's only a week so the obvious solution is to wait. If you can't keep it in your pants for a week you have pretty serious problems and probably should be in jail. (Also, it is important to note that while the character is under-aged, the actress in question, Vanessa Lengies, was 19 or 20 when the film was shot.)

Lastly, you can't review Waiting... without talking about the scene where the woman returns the steak. The scene is so gross, so over the top, so absolutely disgusting, that it could turn off a lot of people. Fortunately, you see a lot of it on the trailer, so you can tell right away if this movie is for you. If you can't watch the trailer without gagging, stay far and far away.

I also have to mention the cast, most of who were great. Ryan Reynolds does an excellent job as Monty, although it would be hard to not see similarities between him and Van Wilder. (It is worth noting that Waiting... was written and he was cast before that movie came out.) Both Anna Faris and Justin Long were playing characters unlike what they've usually played in the past. Particularly Justin Long as Dean was mostly the straight man in the movie and not one of the juicier roles. You expect good performances from veterans like Wendy Malick, Luis Guzman and Chi McBride, but I was particularly impressed by some of the lesser experienced actors like Vanessa Lengies, John Francis Daley, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and Kaitlin Doubleday.

While we're on the subject of the cast, I have to mention Alanna Ubach, who is a good looking woman. However, I found Naomi, unappealing and not just her personality. Physically, she seemed twisted and, I don't want to say grotesque, but that's the word that keeps popping into my head. However, when Alanna Ubach interviewed for the special features, she looked great again. It's like her portrayal of Naomi was such that my perception of her was changed.

On a more serious note, I feel the need to address the homophobia in the movie. Most of the complaints of homophobia revolve around the penis showing game specifically the rule where you had to call the victim gay before you kicked him. Simply put, calling someone gay as an insult is homophobic, there's no real way of getting around that. However, I think the film lessened any chance the film would incite anti-gay bias in the audience when Serena describes the game thusly, "It's like it's an exercise in retarded homophobic futility." When you laugh at the people making gay jokes, it is not as bad as when you laugh at the gay jokes. On the other hand, that tossed salad throwaway joke was totally uncalled for and should have been trimmed, except it was part of the massive, one-shot, film school scene.

Lastly we get to the Unrated Label. There are only a few changed lines, a couple of scenes extended by a few seconds, etc. Nothing you would notice unless you were watching the two versions side-by-side and were really looking for difference. In the end, it is more of a marketing tool than anything of substance.

Special Features:
This two-disc DVD is packed with special features, much more so than one would expect for a movie that cost just over $1 million to make. The first disc alone has more special features than comparable releases while the extras on the second disc are very high quality.

Deleted Scenes - 7:10
There are more than a dozen deleted scenes but the total running time is barely more than 7 minutes, which means the average running time is less than 30 seconds and most are in the 15 to 20 second range. Being so short, they add little to the DVD and don't have much in the way of replay value. There's only one deleted scene with any real substance and that's, "Where's the Party?" which clocks in at 1:40 and actually adds some character depth. I think it should have put back in the movie for the DVD release.

Outtakes - 15:00
Mostly your typical gag reel footage, but it starts with a great gag pulled on
Ryan Reynolds. It does go on a little too long and the replay value for most of them is very limited. Of the nearly 20 clip shown, only four or five deserve repeat viewing.

That Little Extra - 19:00
Your typical making of documentary that can either be watched as one solid piece or broken into 8 chunks. If you watch this one first, you will learn a lot about the making of Waiting... On the other hand, if you watch the more in-depth documentary on disc 2, The Works, you will see very little new here. Because of that, there is limited replay value for this documentary.

Easter Eggs
For those looking for a little gratuitous nudity, go to the A La Carte menu, highlight The New Guy, then move left then click on the writing that appears on the urinal. Warning, I wasn't joking when I said gratuitous nudity.

On to Disc 2...

The Works - 1:25:20
Massive making of documentary that features just about every person involved in the film. There's a lot of information as well as some humor and a lot of outright lies. This documentary deals with a lot of the same subjects as That Little Extra on the first disc, but discusses them in much greater detail. If you liked the movie, you'll love this documentary. On a side note, I love how these people were obviously being interviewed separately and how their versions of events differ. Early on you hear Jeff Balis describe Rob McKittrick's fundraising efforts to make the movie and immediately after Rob McKittrick gives his version; they are not even close. That's not the last time that phenomenon creeps up.

Highlights include...

The Vanessa Apology - First a little background. Like Vanessa Lengies, I am Canadian and because she got her start in show business up here, I've seen her grow up from her earliest work. Even before Popular Mechanics for Kids she was in a low-budget Canadian TV series called Radio Active. I know, low-budget and Canadian are pretty much synonymous, but this show was low-budget even compared to other Canadian shows. It was so cheap, they couldn't even afford extras. Anyhoo, back to my story. I first saw her as a little 13-year old kid, a really cute and innocent 13-year old kid. So seeing her in such a sexual role makes me feel like a dirty old man. At least with Natasha, it was a character and I could deal, but when Rob McKittrick started describing her, it was too much. First time I'm watching it and he starts talking about her audition, I felt like I needed a shower. Fortunately, he did his apology right away and the combined effect is great. The second time around knowing that the apology was coming, I didn't have a problem with what was said and it became one of the funniest stories in the documentary.

Torturing John Francis Daley - Because the budget for this movie was so low, a lot of the cast & crew had to share rooms, including John Francis Daley and Andy Milonakis. Now, you couldn't find two people who worked on this movie who were less alike if you tried. John Francis Daley is, to be blunt, anal, while Andy Milonakis is clearly a slob like me and their co-habitation wasn't exactly without problems. Rob McKittrick, John Francis Daley and Andy Milonakis very well and I won't spoil it here, but I will say that it is one of the highlights of the documentary. In fact, I think I laughed harder over this story than anything else on the DVD.

The Fight - This takes place about two-thirds of the way through the documentary. I'm not going to say anything about it other than you have to see it for yourself.

During the documentary a icon would appear on the screen and by hitting enter you would be taken to a jump scene. I hate the format because I don't watch DVDs with the remote in my hand and I rarely remember where I put it ten minutes after I set it down. So when the icon flashes on the corner of the screen, by the time I find the remote and hit the button, it's too late. Fortunately, all of these jump scenes are also available in the Side Dishes extra and you can watch them separately. Excellent work and obviously designed by someone who watches DVDs the way I do.

Expanded Telestrator Edition - 2:10:00
This is the whole movie with writer / director Rob McKittrick and one of 16 producers Jeff Balis watching at a telestrator. Think of an audio commentary track where the participants can pause, rewind, slo-mo the film, and write on the screen as well. When I first heard of this feature I was unsure if it would work, but having watched the movie this way three or four times, I have to say the idea behind this feature is inspired genius but the execution is a little flawed. For instance, they don't take advantage of the technology enough. Secondly, they don't have subtitles so I can't listen to the commentary while reading the dialogue, which is how I prefer to watch movies with a good audio commentaries track.

However, those two minor complaints aside, this is one of the better audio commentary tracks I've listened to with a good mix of information and entertainment. There's a lot of background information, details of the shooting, real life inspirations, and even a few times when the two disagreed. Listening to Rob McKittrick and Jeff Balis argue over teenage smoking and such is just hilarious. In fact, early in the movie Jeff Balis asks, "Is this going to get ugly?" (It never does, but it certainly does add another level to the commentary.)

I'd give the idea a 10/10 and the execution 8/10.

Sending it Back: The Real Dish on Waiting Tables - 6:00
Conversation with three people who used to or are currently in the food service industry. They tell some interesting, and disgusting stories, but there's limited replay value and you certainly don't want to watch it while you eat.

Side Dishes - 1:00:00
These are the 12 jump scenes from the making of documentary, The Works. There are one or two sections with a bit of overlap, (Max and Andy and the Music section, for instance), but not so much that you feel like fast-forwarding half the time. Most of side dishes are broken down into two parts, commentary by the actor during key scene(s) for their character and audition tapes. Doing commentary is difficult and sometimes a commentary will be little more than the participants describing what happens on the screen. That occasionally happens here, but generally they are well done. They are all worth watching more than one, especially Jordan Ladd who become very upset over framing issues and Vanessa Lengies who gets to be a little crude and that makes me feel less like a dirty old man.

In the end I think I enjoyed the movie more than most since I seem to have a very similar sensibility to first-time writer / director Rob McKittrick. But if you've ever worked in a restaurant as a waiter, dishwasher, etc. and absolutely hated it, you will likely love Waiting.... In fact, if you've ever worked in any dead-end job you hated, then you'll probably love this movie because despite its flaws, it is a funny depiction of the horror of the dead-end job. Yes, it really has no plot, yes, it was unnecessarily vulgar, but it is also very funny and smarter than one would expect from a gross-out comedy. Add in a DVD that is absolute packed and you have a 2-Disc set that is easily worth picking up.

And if you do watch the movie, stick around right till the very end after the rap is over for a little bit of fun.

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Filed under: Video Review, Waiting...