Sunday, March 04, 2007

FILM: "Reno 911!: Miami"

In the age of Cops, it's perhaps not as necessary to make fun of the police as it once was with Police Squad!, but if there's going to be a film about bumbling procedurals, I'm glad it's Reno 911!. Adapted from the Comedy Central series of the same name (you don't need to see one to enjoy the other), Reno 911!: Miami transplants the mock documentary to the big screen -- and to the bigger city of Miami, as the Reno cops are invited to attend a convention for police officers. (A paraphrased example of the film's humor: "We're going to Miami!" "But why did they invite us?" "Why? Well, I'll tell you. They invited us because... well, they invited everybody." "Right, yes! We'll take it.")

On TV, Reno 911! is mostly improvised, so the dialogue is naturally authentic. It's not clear how much of the film was written by the credited Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, and Kerri Kenney (all of who also star), but after four seasons on air, this group flows well together, and the chemistry makes for some great laughs. The film also allows for some great cameos, with small-screen comedians like Chris Tallman and Michael Ian Black right alongside bigger names like Danny DeVito and Paul Rudd.

Like Borat, the humor of the show is that although the stars are communicating directly with the audience through the cameraman, they seem happily oblivious of how idiotic they are. This allows them to make their comedy stereotypes into blank slates that provide a near-constant stream of laughs, from the cowardly alpha-male S. Jones (Cedric Yarbrough) to the sassy, big-bootied black cop Raineesha (Niecy Nash) and her white wanna-be cohort, the pathetic Trudy Wiegel (Kerri Kenney). The freshest dose of humor is provided, however, by their leader, Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon), who is well aware of how pathetic they are, and of how pathetic he is to need them as his only friends.

My admiration for Reno 911!: Miami stems from how well-directed and ambitious the film's sequences are. There are eruptions of blood to make Sam Raimi jealous, there are slow-car chase scenes that (because of the documentary film style) parody even parodies of car chases, and, in the best scene of all, a long pan of one wild night in the International Inn. Set to classical music, the film presents a wide array of comic gold as it moves from room to room on the two-floor building, ultimately climaxing with a zoomed out shot of what all of the officers ultimately wind up doing. This choreographed scene could stand on its own as a brilliant film; as is, it is sometimes dumbed down a little bit by the inept spoofing of Scarface.

Like Borat, much of the humor in Reno 911!: Miami involves wincing, and I won't repeat the best jokes here, because they are profane and because they deserve to keep their surprises. Just understand that there isn't anything in this film beyond the laughter: television characters don't grow any wiser on the big screen, especially when the comedy depends on their stupidity, and nothing ultimately changes. Why that would be a problem for anyone, I don't know: sometimes it's nice to just laugh.

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