Reno 911! better than a taser to the neck, but just barely

by Glen Baity

I don’t know about you, friend, but I’d estimate that a good 90 percent of my television intake consists of shows I watch just because they happen to be on.

Maybe I’m giving up too much information here, but someone has to say it: Yes, I’ve seen every episode of “My Super Sweet Sixteen,” despite the fact that every cell in my body cries out in revolt, simply because, for reasons I can’t or won’t explain, I choose not to look away.

“Reno 911!” isn’t quite that kind of show, but in reality, it’s not far off. Because Comedy Central runs repeats of it so frequently, you don’t really have to make time in your schedule to see it – you don’t even need TiVo. All you need is at least 15 minutes on the couch and a tacit unwillingness to change the channel.

With Reno 911!: Miami, the off-kilter “Cops” send-up comes to the big screen, which means its audience will have to be unusually proactive in seeking it out. That’s more likely than you might think – despite how ubiquitous the show is on basic cable, many members of its fan base, like me, were big fans of “The State,” an uneven but often hilarious 1990s sketch show that ran on MTV. A few of the stars of that show – Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney and Robert Ben Garant – have since moved to “Reno.”

Those “State” fans, alongside the casual “Reno 911!” audience, will probably be disappointed by this thinly plotted and poorly written feature film. Of course, it should first be noted that there’s not much to even the best “Reno 911!” episodes, which consist entirely of loosely-strung-together vignettes and well-timed potty humor.

Given that, it won’t surprise anyone that Reno 911!: Miami has very little in the way of plot – Lt. Jim Dangle (Lennon), his signature short-shorts and his bumbling deputies are invited to a police convention in Florida. After a biological weapons attack quarantines the more competent law enforcement agencies in attendance, the Reno cops become the only law in the city.

After that quick and needless exposition – really, is anyone going to cry foul on the logic used to transplant these characters from Nevada to Florida? – the film follows the basic structure of the show. The deputies answer 911 calls, during which they’re frequently victimized by their own incompetence and dereliction of duty. High-concept, sure, but it’s funny stuff in moderation.

The problem with the film, ironically, is that it’s exactly like the show in exactly the wrong way. That is to say, it contains approximately 22 minutes of funny material, but this time around, the show is more than an hour long, and you’ll pay eight bucks to see it. The added length doesn’t translate to more laughs, just more space between them. There’s the requisite low-brow humor and stomach-churning gags a-plenty, but the length of a feature film throws off the usual spot-on pacing. And unless you’ve been dying to hear the deputies say the F-word without those pesky basic-cable bleeps, it’s hard to justify the price of admission when another 6-hour “Reno” marathon is undoubtedly just around the corner.

Turning a sketch comedy show into a feature-length film is no small feat, and I’m not completely convinced it can be done at all. Reno 911!: Miami certainly doesn’t make a case for it. The oblivious characters are designed for consumption by the half-hour (with commercials), and though the film is short even by modern comedy standards, it goes from funny to wearying to downright grating in a matter of minutes.

While it’s hard to imagine anyone’s expectations for this film being very high, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the show regularly and harbored some hope that the film would be at least sort of entertaining. But whether you like the show or not, there’s almost no chance you’ll derive any sort of enjoyment from Reno 911!: Miami. Fans will find themselves wishing they could reach for the remote, and all others would likely prefer a good old-fashioned macing to these 80 minutes with Reno’s finest.

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