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It's silly, dense, and juvenile. What else could you ask for?,
on 27 September 2007
If there's nothing else a movie studio loves, it's a concept with a pre-existing audience. It's for that reason that multiplexes are forever jammed with sequels, adaptations of novels, remakes, and movies based on old TV shows, videogames and toys. And, of course, what has more of a built-in audience than taking the cast of a current TV series and giving them their own movie? This rarely works, but everybody wants to give it a shot, the less-seen the series, the better. I have never seen Comedy Central's wacky police sitcom Reno 911!, and aside from a funny trailer I had little reason to be optimistic about their big-screen adventure, Reno 911!: Miami. But that's why they play 'em: Miami is a genuinely hilarious comedy, the kind of fine cinematic effort I haven't seen since Steve Guttenberg left the Police Academy series.
A TV show trying to blow itself up to feature length faces many built-in challenges. A 30-minute TV episode is basically 23 minutes long when you take away the commercials, so even getting up to Reno 911!: Miami's brief 84 minute length means quadrupling the amount of plot, jokes and, well, footage involved in a regular episode. What helps in this case is that the story decided upon by series stars and screenwriters Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney-Silver and Thomas Lennon (Lennon is a working writer whose credits include Night at the Museum (Widescreen Edition) is a movie story first and a Reno 911! story second. Wacky underdogs forced to rise to the occasion and save the city from an equally unhinged criminal conspiracy is a time-tested formula as long as the jokes are funny, and here, they're good. The gang's largely improvised banter is hilarious, the characters, led by Lennon's Lt. Dangle, are as lovable as they are pathetic, and Rudd's Al Pacino impression is ridiculous. The movie's nasty streak of animal humor also works particularly well: in addition to the chicken, standout bits include a visit to a nude beach to dispose of a beached whale carcass and an animal control call to a house with an alligator in the pool who's either dead or viciously homicidal. Miami seems pretty safe given how little real crime Reno's finest come up against while patrolling the streets, but then... did anyone check the plug on that 911 switchboard? The humor is, of course, pretty crude and sophomoric, but would you actually pay for a movie like this expecting anything else?
As much as the story is just a clothesline to hang gags on, I was surprised in the end by how much I wanted these fools to finally get it right. I don't want to give too much away, but the nature of the conspirators and their plan, when finally revealed, is funny, and the way Dangle and Co. finally catch on tells you everything you need to know about their fine detective skills. The plot can't always sustain its' momentum, and not all of the gags are hits, but everything moves fast enough to keep it from ever getting dull.