By Ben Holcomb

Sometimes I just get sad about things. It’s OK to feel sad every once in awhile; that doesn’t make you clinically depressed or weird. It’s just a normal ebb of the human emotional cycle. I get sad when I think about August 13th, 2009, when Reno 911! was canceled by Comedy Central. It’s one of the more dark days in American History, if you ask me1. Losing the show was one thing, but just two years earlier, the geniuses behind Reno released a spin-off feature length film called “Reno 911!: Miami”, and it was generally panned. Rotten Tomatoes has it at a 35% right now, which is so egregious I had to stand up and walk that notion off in the middle of writing this sentence. That number though, has, once again, compelled me to stand up and educate all of our faithful readers on why it’s overlooked, and under-appreciated. I give you, this week’s Throwback (Fri)day Film.

Reno 911! is a mockumentary parody of the police show COPS, and one thing you may not know about it was that the show itself was mainly unscripted. The cast would come together and decide on major plot points and directions for each scene, but that’s where the creative process stopped. Once the cameras started rolling, most of the show was unscripted and ad-libbed. The reason for that is because almost all of the cast members on Reno have a history in improvisational comedy. Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, and Kerri Kenney-Silver all got their starts in the business with the comedy troupe The State, which had a cult classic SNL-type show on MTV.

For those of us that were fans of the show, it’s not hyperbolic to state that some truly genius comedy was produced in the six seasons Reno ran on Comedy Central. It was always kind of on the fringe, but if you really got into the show and its characters, you were perpetually rewarded with some of the funniest scenes and moments I’ve ever witnessed on television. That’s why, when the makers of the show announced they were making a film, I was more than enthused.

Normally spin-off films are half-hearted and quickly thrown together without any ounce of love put in to them. But Reno 911!: Miami plays like a marathon of the actual TV show, to which I say what more could you ask for?

The plot of the movie is simple: the Reno Sheriff’s department heads down to Miami for an annual police conference, but someone contaminates the convention center and Miami is left in a state of anarchy…that is, except for the one department that didn’t make it into the convention in time. With no other options, the Reno Sheriff’s Department steps in to save the day and figure out once and for all who was behind the chemical terror attack on the nation’s police forces. But the plot is just there to move the movie along from joke to joke. Because any fan of Reno knows it’s really just a bunch of great skits stapled together into one coherent story.

From the very opening of the film,Reno 911 sets the bar high for an event full of laughter. We’re brought into a surrealist, over-the-top cop drama where things slowly start to not make sense. Danny Devito is there for some reason, and all the girls in the scene are scantily-clad. Jim Dangle, the chief of police in Reno, makes his epic entrance on a motorcycle, but wipes out as he ramps into the scene. Suddenly we cut back to Lt. Junior, who wakes up and tells Dangle he had the weirdest of dreams. That’s when Dangle says, “You know you’re driving, right?”

They crash the car.

Patton Oswalt gives an outstanding performance here as Deputy Mayor Jeff Spoder, who, without giving away spoilers, is a little fishy to say the least. There are scenes in this film that will make you pee your pants. From The Rock’s inexplicable cameo, to a bunch of alligators in a pool, and even the final scene on a bridge in Miami, the film is pretty consistently funny, which makes you wonder why it received such negative reviews. My first guess would be that a lot of the critics were not avid fans of the show, so they were lost from the get-go and weren’t willing to jump into the world of fake cop mockumentaries. But that’s a naive stance from the get-go, so their loss.

Reno 911!: Miami is loaded with awesome guest appearances. Paul Rudd shows up as a Mexican Drug Kingpin, which is especially notable since he career as a leading man in Hollywood would take off right around 2007 and beyond with movies like I Love You, Man andRole Models. Other appearances by Michael Ian Black, David Koechner and Nick Swardson, as the always funny ambiguously gay Terry.

Overall, if you’re a fan of cop shows and like to laugh, you will not be disappointed by Reno 911!: Miami. It’s weird at times, sure, but for an absurd film that’s 90 minutes long, it brings the laughs on an incredibly consistent basis. It was made on a mere $10M budget, but this movie is funnier than a lot of more expensive comedies in the genre.

If you’re a fan of the show, it’s must see entertainment, but even if you’ve never heard of Reno 911! before, you’d be a better person for having viewed it no matter what. I couldn’t recommend it enough as you embark on your weekend adventures.

Oh – and one more thing – there’s an exploding beached whale somewhere in the 87 minutes of the film…so if that’s not enough to suck you in, good luck to ya.

  1. Interesting side note, because of that opinion most people don’t usually ask me.