“Reno 911!: Miami” opens on a scene right out of a Hollywood blockbuster in the vein of “Die Hard.” There is an emergency in a Reno, Nevada skyscraper and the district attorney (a nice cameo from executive producer Danny DeVito) is desperate for someone to save the day. Enter the hapless crew from the Reno Sheriff’s Department, led by the always short-shorts-clad Lieutenant Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon). The movie then launches into an overblown action sequence, which ends with Deputy Travis Junior (Ben Garant) waking from a dream behind the wheel of a squad car.
“You know you’re driving, right?” asks Dangle in the passenger seat. The car then slams into a Port-a-Potty, which smashes the windshield before flying over the roof of the car. Dangle looks behind them to check the damage and matter-of-factly declares, “Nobody in it.”
It’s a pretty amusing opening, but the feature length adaptation of the Comedy Central program unfortunately does not maintain consistent laughs throughout. Even at a quick 84 minutes, there are far too many jokes that fall flat.
The plot (of sorts) kicks in when Dangle informs his seven deputies that they have been invited to a national police convention in Miami Beach. Although they are surprised, he tells them it’s because everyone in the country was invited. After they arrive late via charter bus, they find that every law enforcement officer is stuck inside the convention center because of bioterrorism scare. In my mind, this must mean that the Miami police are as stupid as our heroes, since you would expect them to have at least a few officers on duty. Of course, that kind logic is neither expected nor needed in a movie like this. Since they are apparently the only police anywhere at all in this huge city, they are begrudgingly told by a Department of Homeland Security official (Ian Roberts of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade comedy troupe) that they will have to patrol the streets until an antidote can be found for those trapped inside the convention center. Hilarity ensues … at least some of the time.
Even though there are a few really funny moments, the movie is pretty spotty as a whole. This is a shame since some past movies based around improvisational comedy have been edited down to include mostly pure gold. When Christopher Guest (“Best in Show,” “A Mighty Wind,” “Waiting For Guffman,”) directs a movie, he comes up with so many hours of material that what you’re left with is close to perfect. Now, for all I know, “Reno 911!” might contain more scripted dialogue than I realize, but it seems to me that this group of actors is capable of so much more.
Of course, you just know that the group of deputies will end up saving the day, but it’s to the movie’s credit that they end up doing it by accident. Still, if you want to experience the cast at their best, you’re still better off watching in on television for free.
Now, on a completely unrelated note, I just want to close by noting my success rate at predicting the winners at this year’s Academy Awards, which were held on Sunday. I guessed five out of the top six categories correctly, my best year yet. In 2004, I guessed four. Last year, I may have guessed five and got Best Picture wrong, but I didn’t publish my opinion, so I really can’t remember. Of course, I can’t pat myself on the back too much since it was a relatively predictable year. I am, however, proud to have predicted that “The Departed” would win Best Picture, since it was the most wide open race of the evening. I guessed that Eddie Murphy would win for “Dreamgirls” instead of Alan Arkin, who won for “Little Miss Sunshine” and was my second pick. As the awards got closer, I started to get a sinking feeling that I was wrong about that one. Oh well, we’ll see how well I do next year.
As for the “Stump the Hawk” contest, I was only challenged by one person, Paul Fourshee, who won since I was not able to name the movie that won in 1959. I don’t think Paul played fair, but he did technically play by the rules. When he said, “Best Picture, 1959,” I opened my mouth and he then proceeded to loudly count down from five, causing me to stumble over myself before I was able to say, “Ben Hur.” My guess is that the biggest reason more people didn’t participate was because they probably thought they had to know the answer and had no reason to believe I wouldn’t bluff the answer. Feel free to challenge me just for fun, but I’m afraid the contest is over. Until next time, enjoy yourself at the movies.