RENO 911!: MIAMI
Director: Ben Garant
Cast: Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, Niecy Nash, Kerry Kenney-Silver, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Carlos Alazraqui, Cedric Yarbrough, Mary Birdsong, Patton Oswalt, Paul Rudd
MPAA Rating: (for sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language and drug use)
Running Time: 1:24
Release Date: 2/23/07
Review by Mark Dujsik
I missed the boat on "Reno 911!," but based on the handful of episodes I've caught on Comedy Central and now the feature-length spin-off Reno 911!: Miami, I think it's fair to say I'm content standing at the pier. The show and the movie, for those out of the loop, are improvised mockumentary spoofs of "Cops" about the bumbling exploits of the brainless members of the Reno Sheriff's Department. In theory, I can see the show's appeal—the charm of improvised comedies is obvious—but the show has never drawn me in. A few of the show's bigger gags (mostly involving explosions resulting from ineptitude) are amusing, and that's pretty much the case with the movie as well. I mildly laughed about four or five times and smiled about twice as much, so clearly, there's something off here. The problem lies primarily with the cast, which as an improv troupe are doing the equivalent of warm-up exercises compared to a lot of their counterparts in the field. They are nothing more than broad, interchangeable buffoons in the movie, and when is a better time than what amounts to an extended episode to go beyond that?
Despite of the improvised nature, there is a plot here. The Reno Sheriff's Dept. is up to their unintended mayhem in their hometown. A call comes in, mistakenly for a potentially major threat to the city, which turns out to be a chicken on the loose. Back at the station, the department's commanding officer Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) has some big news: The squad's been invited to attend a national police convention in Miami. So he and Deputies Travis Junior (Robert Ben Garant, who also directed), Raineesha Williams (Niecy Nash), Trudy Wiegel (Kerry Kenney-Silver), Clementine Johnson (Wendi McLendon-Covey), James Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui), S. Jones (Cedric Yarbrough), and Cherisha Kimball (Mary Birdsong) are on their way. The convention doesn't have them on record, though, and after a long night of debauchery, they return to the convention to discover that police forces across the nation are quarantined in the building because of a bio-terrorist threat. With all the other cops unavailable, the whiny mayor-by-default Jeff Spoder (Patton Oswalt) reluctantly puts the Reno folks in charge of protecting the city. After that, there's not much else except for a drug lord (Paul Rudd, doing Pacino a la Scarface) who's convinced the cops are messing with his territory.
Paul Rudd is in good company in the special guest star department. Danny DeVito appears briefly as the district attorney in the dream sequence that opens the movie, and Paul Reubens shows up near the end as the father of Terry (Nick Swardson), a Reno regular who is in Miami to make a record. The best cameo belongs to The Rock, who spoofs his badass persona as a single remaining SWAT member who comes in to give the Reno cops a motivational speech before succumbing to a grenade malfunction. The gags with Rudd's character are the most consistently amusing. Spoofing the infamous chainsaw scene in Scarface, Rudd's Ethan has his thugs use a weed-whacker to torture a victim ("Who brings a weed-whacker on a boat?"). Later, they have difficulty lighting a gasoline-doused informant on fire to teach him a lesson. The fact that I'm spending so much time on these special guest jokes should imply that the main cast doesn't fare as well. There's a lot of scatological humor, like when the crew stops for a pit stop on the side of the road and as Wiegel squats she announces to the camera, "I'm going number two."
There's a lot of that kind of explanation of the jokes here, and one of the first lessons comedians should learn is if you have to explain a joke, it probably wasn't that funny in the first place. The problem here is that some of them are funny, and the explanation just undermines them. Take when Dangle throws a plastic bottle against a wall, and it falls to the ground. That's funny. "I thought it would break," he says. Yes, that's the joke, thank you. This troupe makes a bad habit of hitting, pounding, and otherwise beating their jokes into the ground—not by repetition but by simple execution. There's an extended long shot of the face of the hotel room doorways in which they all walk around, basically trying to get laid. It should be a centerpiece, but it drags, with lots of cuts within it showing where the improvised dialogue fell flatter than it already is (that the scene ends in a masturbation fest should tell you how forced it is). Clementine spends the rest of the movie searching for the man whose face is tattooed on her breast as a result of that night, Wiegl and Raineesha beat-box to the "Cops" theme on their down time at the station, and it's just not funny.
It's not all that bad. There's a good gag involving an alligator in a pool, a drunk guy who thinks he's an expert on the animal, and a second gator, and Travis' description of Reno is admittedly priceless. Then again, there is a slow clap scene without any irony near the end of the movie, and I'm pretty sure I've seen people blow up a whale before. I'm just not a fan of the show, and Reno 911!: Miami doesn't help in the least to make me one.
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.