As a half hour television show, ‘Reno 911’ is the best thing to hit Comedy Central since John Stewart. As a movie, it’s like a spandex banana hammock stretched out over Lt. Dangle’s crotch. Funny, but frighteningly thin.
The whole gang from the television series is here, only they’ve switched cities. Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) and the crew of the Reno Sheriffs department have been invited to a police convention in Miami Beach. When they show up, they discover every police officer in town quarantined inside the convention hall, victims of a bioterrorism plot. Since they’re the only cops in town still on their feet, it’s up to them to take over the job of policing Miami Beach and finding the antidote for whatever it is that the town’s regular patrol has been dosed with.
Ok, it’s a pretty silly plot device. But the story doesn’t really matter. It’s all just an excuse to follow the inept Reno cops around the bikini bare vacation town in a partially improvised parody of the old ‘Cops’ formula. For anyone who is already a fan of the show, that’s one of the great things about Reno 911!: Miami. They’ve had the balls to stick with the premise of the series and plop it down in a splashier, more cinematic location without falling pretty to the temptation to waste too much time tricking it up. That’s also part of the problem though. The TV show’s thirty minute episodes are just a collection of really funny bits, stitched together with a flimsy plot. The movie is no different than your average episode, and it’s basically thirty minutes worth of really funny bits stretched out in eight-four minutes. The material here would be funnier if it were smashed down to its television length essentials.
The only thing really missing from the television series is the show’s signature theme music. This might seem like a minor omission, but in the TV series, the Cops-like music sort of sets the tone for the whole thing. It serves as a bookend between disconnected bits, and pushes the story along. For the film, they’ve done away with the music entirely, opting for a random, barely noticeable, boring movie score. You’d think they could have at least worked it into the credits.
Still, it’s worth eight-four minutes of viewing to get thirty minutes of genuinely sick, depraved, wholly violated laughter. It’s worth it. Without the arbitrary decency limits placed on them by basic cable television, the Reno 911 gang goes out of their way to offend and gross out. Yeah, some of the funniest stuff is already in the trailer but there’s more you haven’t seen. For instance geek comedian Patton Oswalt shows up for a considerable role, and towards the end nearly runs away with the movie.
If you’re already a fan of the show, you’ll want to see Reno 911!: Miami. The feature film version may have somewhat less to offer newcomers, and the film’s flimsy premise may be something of a turnoff to anyone not already familiar with Dangle’s short-shorts obsession.