Mustaches are funny. So are car crashes, booze, crack heads, thongs, hookers, trannies, asses and cops with an extraordinarily lax grip on firearm safety procedures. These are the core tenets behind Comedy Central's cops spoof Reno 911!, which has made the wholly unnecessary but occasionally hilarious jump to the cinema. The track record of such tube-to-screen transitions is spotty at best; usually a signal of creative bankruptcy, but happily these gun-crazy goofballs never had that much in the bank to begin with.
The premise is utter simplicity in motion: The inept cops of the Washoe County Nevada Sheriffs department, a crew who make Steve Guttenberg's Police Academy look like a SWAT team, have been invited to a national cop convention in Miami. Their exasperated leader is Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon), who stylishly accents his uniform with bootie tight hot pants so he can move like "a law enforcement cheetah." He loves his squad, but has lately been thinking career advancement. Opportunity strikes when a terrorist chemical attack quarantines every other available officer inside the convention center, and the Reno gang jumps at the chance to go big time, if they don't manage to destroy the city first. That's about all the plot you'll need to know or about all the filmmakers bothered with since it's an extended pretense on which to string gags. How effective those jokes are depends directly on your sophomoric dick-joke tolerance level, and on how funny you think random violence and animal cruelty is. Some of it's a hoot, like the alligator attack and the beached whale scene given away in the trailer. Other stuff is raunchier, fully exploiting the "R" rating with nudity and bleep-free lingo that doesn't fly on basic cable. Consider the long, Altman-esque sequence where a roving camera pans across a seedy motel courtyard, peering into individual windows that see each cast member engaged in some form of self-love. The big screen allows for even bigger and louder explosions than on TV, with helicopter and missiles in the mix, and for a very amusing low-speed perp pursuit on golf carts. The bummer is that not everything is golden, there's plenty of dead air and after a while the movie starts to feel like what it is: one long improv workshop. Witty as this ensemble is, they aren't in the league of a Christopher Guest cast even pro support from Patton Oswald, Paul Rudd and David Koechner can't stop the air from going out of the tires before the end. Watch out for those comedy spike strips.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].