DON’T CALL 911
RENO 911!: MIAMI
(1 out of 4 stars)
DIRECTED BY BEN GARANT
STARRING: BEN GARANT, MICHAEL IAN BLACK,
PAUL REUBENS, KERRIS KENNEY, DANNY DEVITO,
THOMAS LENNON, WENDI MCLENDON-COVEY
Boys, looks like we got a hit on our hands. A real moneymaker.” So went a probable discussion between executives when a decision was made to milk Reno 911!, the hit Comedy Central show, for a feature film. The thinking behind this production made sense. Hit TV shows have proven to be bankable commodities, and with a relatively low production cost, the opportunity for a strong initial B.O. showing would mean a guaranteed profit and the likelihood for future spin-offs.
Film opens with an exaggerated hostage situation outside of a large office building where the police are lost on what to do and whom to call. Arriving in helicopters are members of the most elite crime fighting crew in the country—the Reno Police Department. Dressed in perverted versions of SWAT wear, Wendi McLendon-Covey’s supple breasts are on full display; we’re informed that the team’s the best of the best, the only crew capable to handle situations of this sensitive nature. The scene unfolds, or unravels into the bizarre when Thomas Lennon’s Lieutenant Jim Dangle begins asking for kinky behavior from a misplaced model, only to be awakened by Deputy Travis Junior, his partner, because Dangle’s in fact driving the squad car! And he immediately runs through a porta-toilet.
A brilliantly fun opening, with all the smarts that made the show such a success. The remainder of the film finds our group traveling to Miami for a cop convention, only to discover that they weren’t invited and therefore can’t enter the convention center, which becomes a quarantined site because of an apparent terrorist chemical attack, leaving the Reno crew to police the streets of South Beach.
With the exception of a few lewd jokes and slapstick comedy moments, the film is directionless and begs the most repeated question in American cinema today: “Why?”. Why are we watching this film? Why was it made? Why would anyone care? The half-hour format of the television incarnation is perfect for this concept: essentially a kind of spoof on reality TV mainstay Cops (shoddy camera work and all). On television, before the shtick gets repetitive—occasionally torturous—the episode is over.
The well-crafted characters maintain the integrity of their roles in what is essentially a comedy troupe comprised of the finest improvisational actors working today. I can safely say this after attending the press conference for the film. Arriving terribly disappointed by the film itself, I was shocked to learn that the entire cast of the film had arrived in character. The questions delivered by reporters addressed the relationships and happenings of the film as though the movie portrayed reality. The line between fiction and reality has been blurred with the advent of reality television, and most recently films such as Borat. Created by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, Reno 911! allows the creative talents of the actors to be utilized to their full potential, and never was this more on display than when they answered impromptu questions.
Press conferences are always standard fare. Safe questions and safe answers. Free food and fake smiles. The Reno 911!: Miami press conference was perhaps the greatest hour of stand-up comedy most reporters in the room will ever witness. The entire session felt like 15 minutes of gut-wrenching laughter. The reporters played along with the cast, addressing them by character names, asking pointed questions about their pasts, futures, and reactions to being portrayed on the big screen.
The cast never broke, cracked a smile, or allowed a moment of uncomfortable silence to pass. Truly, some of the most gifted performers who happened to be trapped within a film made with purely financial interests in mind. At least they kept the running time at barely over an hour. It’s worth it if you’re a die-hard fan. But, if you’re not, a buddy will buy the DVD and you can always catch the funny scenes in between trips to the kitchen.