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by Willie Waffle

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Waiting . . .

I want Ryan Reynolds' career and his abs. Mr. Alanis Morissette is ripped, can fall back on the reflected fame of his special gal pal (Alanis) if times get tough, and will always get a phone call when Vince Vaughn turns down a role.

Justin Long stars as Dean - a young waiter who is starting to think there's more to life than working at the Shenaniganz theme restaurant and bar. Dean is worried life may be passing him by as he hears about former classmates' successes, and has a huge decision to make. He has been offered an opportunity to become the assistant manager, and, during one wild and crazy shift, has to decide if he will follow that path.

Does Dean want to be assistant manager? Is it the path to being a loser?

Long (mini-Ed from the TV show Ed) technically is the star, but it's Reynolds with his classic Vince Vaughn impression who steals the show and gets most of the laughs. Reynolds shows he is confident, crazy, hip, fast, and funny, even when the material fails him. Sadly, it fails him often.

Writer/director Rob McKittrick has some clue what he is doing, but isn't interested in raising the film to a level higher than silly, gross, childish humor. Dean's very serious dilemma is pushed to the background, so we can get more of the typical jokes you would expect like what angry servers do to your food if you are rude, the staff's sexcapades and a pitiful subplot about two white busboys who dream of becoming gansta rap stars. While it can be funny at times, it has all been done before.

In a sense, McKittrick's biggest problem is competing, duplicate plots. On the one hand, we have Dean looking at the madness around him and wondering if he wants this life. On the other hand, we have a new employee, Mitch (John Francis Daley), who is looking at the madness all around him and wondering if he wants this life. The characters even look alike. I guess McKittrick wants to say this is some sort of endless cycle, but I say let's pick one focus and stick with it. He continues duplicating elements of the story with 2 "office" romances, 2 chefs who are crazy and out of control, 2 wise old men who dole out advice and 2 nutty waiters who are on the edge. It's too much.

Even among the mess, the actors do find moments to shine. Reynolds commands the screen every time he appears with great comic confidence and good timing to deliver his lines at all of the right times with the right tone to make us laugh. Even when stuck with a clunker of a pseudo-inspirational speech, he almost makes you want to laugh. Long is fine as the flustered observer of madness, but gets over shadowed by Daley who gets a great scene towards the end of the movie, and Luis Guzman (playing one of the cooks) matches Reynolds in the tone and timing departments. Finally, look out for Vanessa Lengies as the Lolita-ish hostess who is growing into a sexy little minx. You'll remember her from American Dreams. I'll remember her from my dreams.

Waiting will have a long shelf life on cable television, but often resorts to raunchy for raunchy's sake.

1 ½ Waffles (Out Of 4)

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