Warning! This site contains satire, cynical adult humor, celebrity gossip, and an occasional peanut by-product or two!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Reno 911 ~ Miami

How often have you fantasized about watching your favorite television show on the big screen? Apparently Hollywood thinks it’s something we all do all the time considering the gazillion of movies that have been released in the past few years based on old tv shows. We’ve had everything from My Favorite Martian and Lost in Space to Charlie’s Angels and The Dukes of Hazzard. There’s been I Spy, Scooby Doo, The Brady Bunch, Wild, Wild West, and even old fan fave Bewitched. Unfortunately, one thing they all have in common is that they have flopped harder than a halibut in the Arizona desert before dying pitifully at the box office. The other thing these copycat wannabees have in common is that none of them starred the original cast members in their original roles, which, if a studio head had the brain capacity of a sea anemone would know, is the one best reason people would want to see a movie version of their pet tv show in the first place. When you think of “Samantha” from Bewitched who do you think of first ~ Elizabeth Montgomery or Nicole Kidman? I rest my case.

So who’d have thought it would be the tv network-ette Comedy Central who would “get it”? Last year they gave an unsuspecting world a too-late-to-matter release of their long-dead show Strangers With Candy with the original cast, including today’s media darling Stephen Colbert, who was a mere ensemble player when the tv version was in full swing. While the movie did only modest business, it did show the suits at Comedy Central that if you are going to go big with one of your shows it is best to look to a current popular title instead of the last millennium’s, and to add something that the audience can’t get in the tv version. In other words, throw in as much sex, nudity, and swearing as you can and hope for the best.

So explains how I came to find Reno 911!: Miami at the
Essex Cinemas this week. I’ve always been a fan of the show, especially because the cast does such a terrific job each week in what is essentially an improvisational show, a string of silly vignettes they make-up as they go along, showing their individual characters reacting to different situations they encounter while playing neighborhood cops in Northern Nevada.

The group is a cliché of stereotypes that exceed our expectations by embracing exactly the stereotypes that they are mocking while still doing it quite tongue-in-cheek. There’s Lieutenant Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon;
The Ten), the unit’s leader, a shorts-wearing blonde with a penchant for seeking out male company but who doesn’t for a second consider himself or allow himself to utter the “g” word because that would be “just so you know.” Then there is Deputy Travis Junior (Robert Ben Garant; also in The Ten), Dangle’s slow-witted partner who dazzles with his ability to do just about everything wrong. Someday, with his shooting skills and general smarts, he could grow up to be Vice President. There’s also Niecy Nash (Code Name: The Cleaner), who plays brash and sassy Deputy Raineesha Williams, a woman whose self-esteem is so high she is happy to share her bountiful booty with all of Miami Beach in a thong even a manatee wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. Her partner is Deputy Trudy Wiegel (Kerry Kenney-Silver; again with The Ten), a woman so lacking in her own personality that she is willing to borrow Raineesha’s if she’ll let her. Her unrequited love for Dangle has seen her through three seasons and looks like it isn’t going to end any time soon, especially now that she’s working in an “R” rated environment. Speaking of which, let’s not forget Wendi McLendon-Covey (Closing Escrow), who gives all the gals a run for their money as busty Deputy Clementine Johnson, the sexy and most sexually aggressive of the group. She considers her body a temple and encourages everyone to worship regularly.

He may seem quiet, but Deputy James Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui; Happy Feet) is fortunately the one who stayed in line the day God passed out brains because even though he enjoys his booze, women, and getting into trouble himself, it’s often up to Garcia to save the day when things go awry. Deputy Cherisha Kimball (Mary Birdsong; Le Chase) is a quiet one too, best known for her sexual ambiguity. Most of her interaction with her co-workers seems to leave them convinced she is a lesbian, but she’s not saying a word. Rumor has it her tongue is too tired to talk, but I wouldn’t know, and who am I to spread gossip? And last, but not least, rounding out the Unit is Cedric Yarbrough (Unaccompanied Minors) as Deputy Jones. Jones is my favorite character if for no other reason than he seems to be forever the one to bear the angst of his team. Perhaps not having a first name has something to do with it, but Jones definitely recognizes that they are a bunch of dimwitted goofs, and yet he still goes with the flow because he loves these idiots.

Going with the flow is what Reno 911! does best, and so the biggest drawback to the movie is that it must rely heavily on a script, which takes the talented improvisation team away from what it does best and forces the troupe to limp through the structure of a plot with a predictable outcome. The unit from Reno takes a bus (yes, a bus) all the way to Florida to attend a three day convention of police officers from across the country and, in typical fashion, find when they arrive that someone has screwed up and they are not on the list of attendees. Fortunately for them, it turns out, being denied entrance proves a good thing as all 2,000+ officers inside the convention center are inexplicably exposed to an infectious toxin that kills in three days. Now Miami is without any police protection at all…unless… you get the idea.

The jokes are as dumb as they are on tv, and the crimes the team investigate are minor or bizarre (alligators in the pool!) as with the original,
but to ramp up the comedy, co-writers and stars Lennon, Garant and Kenney-Silver include some scenes that are so “out there” that you can’t help but laugh at the mere realization that someone came up with the idea in the first place. For instance, there is one skillfully managed segment where the camera pans from window to window of the motel where the officers are staying and in an almost graceful sweep reveals that each one is furiously masturbating in private at the same time. Perhaps this is to show how they really do think alike, but more likely it is just there for the shock value and a good laugh. It worked for me. It’s tacky, lewd, and downright tasteless most of the time (beware of beached whales!), but that is what makes the Reno gang who they are.

Reno 911!: Miami may sometimes seem like one long fart joke, but it's a funny one nevertheless. It will make you laugh even though it is far from a quality film. It loses focus of what makes the tv show so good when the plot
gets in the way and a stream of guest cameos pop in and out to remind us that this is a movie after all. On tv, Reno 911! spoofs other police procedural shows like Cops as the officers are followed around with unseen cameras in a cinema verité fashion. The movie tries to replicate this style for a while and then it disappears and reappears in random hits and misses, a lot like the jokes. If you are a fan of the tv show, then Reno 911!: Miami should definitely satisfy (at least it is commercial free). If you’ve never seen the show, this is as good an introduction as any, but just don’t expect Oscar to come knocking. This is a fun time only attraction. Check your brain at the door.

No comments: