Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In Theaters: Reno 911! Miami

There may not have been much reason to make RENO 911!, the funnier-than-it-sounds cop spoof running on Comedy Central, into a feature film. But, as with last year's STRANGERS WITH CANDY, it's a worthy translation, slightly smuttier and a tiny bit more plot-heavy than its source material but basically not a major change. Written and directed by the same team behind the series with all the original cast, RENO 911! MIAMI is a fun, inconsequential comedy which I'd recommend catching before it leaves theaters, though it'll probably hold up just as well on DVD.

The main characters are the members of the Reno, Nevada Sheriff's Department, who are invited to attend a police convention in Miami. A mixup lands them in a cheap hotel away from the convention center, which, the next morning, is hit by a mysterious bioterror attack, putting everyone inside under quarantine. This leaves the Reno team the only law enforcement in the entire city, and they must not only keep order but discover who attacked the center so an antidote can be found. Not being used to heavy-duty police work, or for that matter not very competent at all, the team stumble through various encounters and try to resolve some personal dilemmas in the process.

The film, like the show, is an ensemble piece, driven by its characters (in fact, the film was loosely scripted, with plenty of room given for improvisation.) The leader, Lieutenant Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon), has tiny shorts, aspirations to join the Aspen PD, and a growing acknowledgment of his not-really-latent homosexuality. Deputy Trudy Wiegel (Kerry Kenney-Silver), a wiry, socially awkward woman, persists in a crush on him nonetheless, while the curvaceous and fun-loving Deputy Clementine Johnson (Wendi McLendon-Covey) spends much of the film trying to find out the identity of a man whose face ends up tattooed on her breast. The other members of Reno's finest- Deputy Travis Junior (Robert Ben Garant), Deputy Raineesha Williams (Niecy Nash), Deputy Cherisha Kimball (Mary Birdsong), Deputy James Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui), and Deputy S. Jones (Cedric Yarbrough)- don't get a lot of plot action, but in the end the plot isn't very important anyway, and everybody gets funny stuff to do. (Fans of THE STATE will also spot fellow alumni David Wain, Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, all playing people in tattoo parlors Johnson hits to find the wearer of the face on her chest.)

As mentioned above, the movie is raunchier than the basic cable show which spawned it, with swearing, nudity, a funnier-than-it-should-be masturbation gag, and an amusing sex scene, among other general R material. Inevitably it becomes a bit of a patchwork, but some gags do stand out, notably a series of repeated and random encounters with a Scarface-esque drug dealer (Paul Rudd, of all people) who interrogates the hapless officers about something they have no clue about while threatening their "partners" with sadistic tortures. There's also a run-in with at least one Reno troublemaker who finds himself in Miami through circumstances best left unexplained.

There's not a whole lot to say about this movie, really, but it's a solid bit of goofiness from a team that specializes in that kind of quality dumb humor. It's short, fast-moving and doesn't let the plot get in the way of any good gags. I'm still not wholly sure how this film ended up getting made, but so much the better. I hope we see more from these people.

Written by Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, & Kerry Kenney (based on the TV series created by same)
Directed by Ben Garant

Grade: B+

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