The problem with the “Reno 911!” movie is the same as the problem with the “Reno 911” TV show: They’re out of ideas. Moving it to a different city and putting it on the big screen doesn’t cure that problem. If anything, it exacerbates it. When a joke fails now, it’s failing on a grand scale, in a large theater full of non-laughing people.
I had such affection for this show, Comedy Central’s parody of “COPS,” when it premiered in 2003. The mostly improvised dialogue was snarky, the characters delightfully daft, and the police work hilariously incompetent. I laughed heartily at every episode.
Yet somewhere around the third season (the show’s now taking a break in the middle of season 4), it became apparent that the inventiveness had worn off. More and more gags centered on Reno’s bumbling cops encountering bizarre citizens, and those citizens’ quirks started to seem more and more forced. Then there are the gags in which the cops inadvertently destroy something or blow something up. How many of those do we need?
“Reno 911!: Miami,” the oddly punctuated big-screen foray, is the equivalent of about four 20-minute episodes of the series, beefed up in terms of profanity, nudity, sex, and violence, but not in any other measurable way. It has scattered laughs, but it has more places where you want to laugh and merely smile (or shrug).
The premise is that they’ve gone to Miami for a law-enforcement convention, only to be put in charge of the city’s actual police force when all the other cops in town are quarantined in the convention center after a chemical attack. What this means for us is that it’s the usual “Reno 911” shenanigans, only larger and in a different city. Where once the idiot cops would run afoul of mean neighborhood dogs, now they can deal with an alligator in a swimming pool. It used to be finding a dead body on the street; now it’s a dead whale on a beach.
You can see how that’s not really an improvement if the show was already running out of creative steam. I notice that the real plot of the film is resolved at about the 60-minute mark; everything occurring after that is filler.
There are high points, however. Dep. Trudy Wiegel (Kerry Kenney-Silver) is always a loopy, unbalanced treat, as when she tells us, “I became a cop because my doctors thought it would be good for me to get out of the house.” Early scenes back in Reno have the crew firing several dozen shots while attempting to wrangle a chicken, and that’s always a good time. A vulgar desk clerk in Miami earns a few laughs, and Paul Rudd’s cameo as a drug lord has a very funny payoff.
There are eight deputies in the squad, all with distinct personalities, though the film is so busy with other things that some of them get the short shrift. Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon), the flamboyant commanding officer in hot pants, still has a thing for Dep. Jones (Cedric Yarbrough), while Wiegel has a thing for Dangle. Raineesha Williams (Niecy Nash) is a trash-talking single mom; she and Clementine Johnson (Wendi McLendon-Covey) spend their time either pursuing men or talking about sex. Junior (Ben Garant, also the film’s director) and Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui) are vaguely redneck and occasionally racist. Cherisha Kimball (Mary Birdsong), the newest member of the team, is widely presumed to be a lesbian.
The interplay among the actors is still the show’s best asset. As a comedy troupe, these men and women are top-notch, and when you give them a good situation, they can improvise something merrily, stupidly funny out of it. Trouble is, they’ve run out of good situations. The several quality bits that come out of the film don’t outweigh the many other sequences that are just so-so.
C+ (1 hr., 24 min.; )