Despite the fact that I am in that all-important 18-to-25-year-old demographic that somehow mystically turns the cogs of capitalism and commerce, I have never seen an entire episode of the Comedy Central series Reno 911!, though I do have a passing familiarity with it, and have caught bits and pieces of episodes. Call it jaded elitism or plain-old just being out of touch, but the premise behind the show—a parody of the long running COPS series, featuring a lot of C-list comedians as misfits in the Reno Sheriff’s Department—has never appealed to me, and what little I have seen of the show has never been enough to dissuade me of this notion. The fact that the show’s first foray onto the big screen is a mind-numbingly unfunny, miserably tedious excuse for entertainment, just proved my hunch correct.
The film has no real plot, just a flimsy, rudimentary storyline that sends the men and women of Reno 911! to Miami for a law enforcement convention, until a bio-terror attack leaves them in charge of keeping peace throughout the entire city. Despite the pure idiocy of the setup (National Guard, anyone?), the film might conceivably have worked if it had the slightest modicum of wit, focus or aptitude. Instead, what you get is a bunch of half-baked sketches improvised by a bunch of comedians you’ve never heard of and a few you have, like Danny DeVito and Paul Reubens. I have a feeling that the script for this movie consists of “Go to Miami. Allow high jinks to ensue.” (I guess in that respect the film would be half of a success.)
At 80 minutes, Reno 911! seems at least twice as long. There’s barely enough material here to cover half an hour, let alone its extended running time, meaning what you get is a really long version of the TV show. Except that in the movie, due to the magic of Hollywood, they get to show boobies and say dirty words.
Of course, all of this would be moot if the film was actually funny, and while comedy is subjective, I have a hard time believing that even fans of the show will get more than a few chuckles out of the movie (when an animatronic alligator provides your film’s best comedic performance, you’re in trouble). The worst part is that one can’t help but get the feeling that the people involved really do think that they’re outrageously funny (though I’m pretty sure one could get the same results by giving some “wacky” teenagers a camcorder). But let’s be honest, does anyone think that a gay man in short shorts is a comedy gold mine, or that parodying Scarface (1983) is somehow still on the cutting edge of comedy? The Marx Brothers this is not (heck, it’s barely even the Wayans Brothers).
There’s a distinct air of “been there, done that” that floods every second of the film, since so much of it feels like leftovers from Super Troopers (2001) or the Police Academy franchise. At least Police Academy had the wherewithal to wait until its fifth installment before resorting to the gimmick of traveling to Miami. You know a movie’s in dire straits when it makes you yearn for the subtle comedic talents of Michael Winslow and Bubba Smith. Rated R for sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language and drug use.
— reviewed by Justin Souther