2009’s Slammin’ Salmon from the Broken Lizard gang and Waiting… with Ryan Reynolds, both feeble competitors, seem like the only candidates that hop to mind. What a great opportunity to move beyond bland, sophomoric comedy styling to become a film that stands as a comedy bastion for those in the food service industry!
Sadly, Servitude barely gives us the impression that it attempted to accomplish either goal. While his uptight girlfriend pressures him to go to law school, Josh, our table-waiting hero, discovers that his wild-west restaurant is being taken over by curiously Nazi-like German investors during a visit from their inspector general , Franz (Enrico Colantoni).
So he rallies his coworkers to finally play out their fantasies and show the cranky customers that they’re, in fact, not always right.
In one sense the film hits the nail on the head: as a former server, I can vouch for the countless aspects of restaurant life that are accurately captured. From the phony cheap tippers to the over-inquisitive menu hounds, the writer includes every server truism available.
Unfortunately their inclusion is the best thing that can be said for these details, or for the film as a whole for that matter. The whole server uprising, which is the heart of the movie, comes off as matter-of-fact rather than satisfying.
In one case, Josh is ignored by customers at a table covered in appetizer dishes, while holding their burning hot main dishes in his hands. Rather than going the distance and feigning accident while pouring the food on their laps as we might expect, he simply pushes the empty plates aside to make space himself, and remarks to the diners about how rude they’re being.
What a badass! That’s the kind of move that’s sure to inspire angry young waiters for years to come. In fact, the whole film gave the impression that the comedy aimed for wasn’t captured in execution, as if the filmmakers learned about humour from a book, perhaps one written in a language other than their mother tongue.
Luckily, Kids in the Hall veteran and general Canadian comedy legend Dave Foley delivers the goods as the desperate and hapless restaurant owner, and Franz’s alternatively repressed and dictatorial antics provide the biggest laughs. Still, there isn’t a character in the film unique or complex enough to move beyond the stereotype that inspires them.
Maybe they thought the polite-and-bland flavour will make it a hit with Canadian audiences. When I discovered that Servitude was a product of public Telefilm funding, my prior feelings were only reinforced: perhaps the allocation of arts dollars in Canada could use some careful reconsideration.