‘Waiting…’ at 15: Some Funny but Troubling Shenaniganz
Here’s a film that’s pretty damned strange to watch in 2020.
Waiting… was a raunchy comedy about a group of waiters, the sort of service industry workers who don’t often have movies made about them. The film also starred several actors (Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Justin Long, and even Andy Milonakis and Dane Cook) who would go on to bigger things.
Waiting… barely got a theatrical release when it opened in October of 2005 – 15 years ago this month – and became something of a word-of-mouth sensation.
On the other hand, the movie is almost entirely about workplace sexual harassment, and one character’s primary character trait is that he likes to get with underaged girls.
I’ve often criticized and made fun of the notion that a movie from another era “could not be made today.” But Waiting…, certainly, could not be. And that’s mostly because of the Penis Showing Game.
The workday goings-on of restaurant employees were ripe for parody
Yes, it’s a running joke throughout the movie that the employees of the Shenaniganz restaurant make a habit of exposing themselves to one another at work, as a part of a “game” in which the person whose member was seen gets to accuse the person who saw it of being gay, and then kick them.
“Now, the exact object of the game is to get the other participants to unknowingly look at your testicles and/or penis,” Reynolds’ Monty character explains at one point. “And if they do, you ridicule them mercilessly for being a fag.”
Strange as it is that a word like that got thrown around in a movie just 15 years ago, the film at least allows Anna Faris’ waitress character to call out the ridiculousness and offensiveness of the Penis Showing Game. But she even calls it “an exercise in retarded homophobic futility.”
If the plot of this movie took place today, it would likely lead to sexual harassment lawsuits, everyone getting fired and Shenaniganz being shut down by state authorities.
Written and directed by Rob McKittrick, Waiting… follows a day in the life of a Bennegan’s-like restaurant called Shenaniganz. As told through the eyes of trainee/audience surrogate Mitch (Freaks and Geeks actor-turned Spider-man director John Francis Daley), we’re introduced to the gang at the restaurant.
Each of the characters has about one notable character trait. Monty (Reynolds) is into underaged girls, which the film treats as creepy but essentially harmless. Dean (Long) feels bad that he’s working at a restaurant instead of having a better career. Waitress Naomi (Alanna Ubach) is extremely mean. Calvin (Robert Patrick Benedict) is a nerd who hasn’t mastered either talking to girls, or peeing in public. Dane Cook, cast a couple of years before his brief takeover of stand-up comedy, is barely in the film.
The movie ends with the memorable scene of Mitch calling out the rest of the characters, the sort of thing more movies should include:
Yes, there are some funny gags, the cast has some talented people, and the workday goings-on of restaurant employees were ripe for parody. But watching Waiting… again today, let’s just say the “Show the Penis Game” is hard to get past.