Ryan Reynolds as Monty
Anna Faris as Serena
Justin Long as Dean
David Koechner as Dan
Luis Guzmán as Raddimus
Chi McBride as Bishop
John Francis Daley as Mitch
Kaitlin Doubleday as Amy
Robert Patrick Benedict as Calvin Robert
Alanna Ubach as Naomi
Vanessa Lengies as Natasha
Max Kasch as T-Dog
Andy Milonakis as Nick
Dane Cook as Floyd
Jordan Ladd as Danielle
When it comes down to it, this is only a mildly amusing, but mostly bad, knock-off of “Clerks” moved into a chain restaurant. Or as one character puts it so eloquently: “an exercise in retarded homophobic futility.”
At the chain restaurant Shenaniganz, it’s the employees vs. the customers and the cooks vs. the wait staff, as they try to stay entertained at their boring job. They mostly do this by trying to show each other their genitals. On the verge of crackingand who would blame him?–Dean (Justin Long) has to decide whether to take a job as assistant manager or get out of there while he still has a chance.
Let’s just get this out of the way. I completely blame Kevin Smith for the existence of this movie. Not that he produced it or anything, but the fact that one man has made an entire film career based on homophobic d*ck jokes, must have made the prospects of this comedy’s ill-conceived central premise a sure fire winner. Not that this is exactly an indie venture either. I mean, how can it be with almost a dozen producers?
While the first film from writer/director Rob McKittrick has a lot of problems, mostly in the tasteless homophobic humor, he was able to assemble an amazing cast that actually makes more out of the material than might have been otherwise. Sure, Ryan Reynolds and Anna Farris have plenty of experience with this sort of humor and they’re okay, but the greatest pleasure comes from seeing John Francis Daley of “Freaks and Geeks” and “Boston Public” as restaurant newbie Mitch stealing the movie from the best of them. The other great recurring gag involves actress Alanna Uback, who plays a raging psychopath one moment, but is able to put on a smiling face for the customers when necessary. She’s so flawless at going back and forth that you can’t help but laugh.
In general, the situations involving how the staff deals with the restaurant’s customers work the best, except for when it goes for the obvious by “tampering” with their food. Having spent most of my “college years” working as a short order cook, I can at least vouch for the fact that cooks don’t take kindly to food orders ten minutes before closing time.
What Didn’t Work:
Although there are a few funny bits and characters, the movie doesn’t have very much of a story beyond Dean having to decide whether to move to management or get the hell out of there. The restaurant setting as a form of humor is nothing new as we’ve seen a lot of this before in Mike Judge’s far superior “Office Space” or even back in Judge Reinhold’s bits in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Ryan Reynolds is pretty much doing his same old “Van Wilder” schtick, playing a womanizing party guy but in a restaurant setting. Luiz Guzman, a great comedic character actor in most cases, is wasted as the chef who spends the entire movie flashing his privates (don’t worry, we don’t actually see them) and trying to get it on with his dumb girlfriend. He and Chi McBride deserve much better than this. David Koechner from “Anchorman” plays the lecherous restaurant manager, basically the same tyrannical ass we’ve seen in so many other movies.
What repeatedly ruins any chance of this movie being fun is the homophobic “game” that the male staff of this restaurant play, in which they try to show each other their genitals in inventive ways before calling their unwitting victim a “f*g.” This is introduced early in the movie, and it becomes a never-ending source of “What were they thinking?” as it keep being repeated, getting less amusing each time.
Even more troubling is the subplot that has Reynolds and Koechner hitting on an underage hostess, something that also isn’t funny the first time, but becomes another one of the movie’s recurring themes.
If there weren’t enough attempts to steal Kevin Smith’s tried-and-true formula, the restaurant’s busboys, played by Max Kasch and MTV’s Andy Milonakis, basically act like two mini Jason Mewes, doing drugs, spouting expletives, and acting like two preteen gangsta rappers. They would have been more appreciated if they both played Silent Bob.
Then there’s the waiter too scared to pee in the public restroom. Yes, there’s an entire subplot based around this guy and his fixation with a female coworker who treats him like dirt. Every time the movie returns to this character and this subplot, it hits a wall, because it’s just not very funny.
The Bottom Line:
Rob McKittrick’s first film might have been a welcome addition to the comedy genre if he didn’t constantly feel the need to head South of Good Taste with ridiculously homophobic and misogynistic humor. The movie might have been decent, if he didn’t try to base all of the laughs on a couple of ridiculous ideas that weren’t particularly funny.