May 28, 2023
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Cop antics translate well to the big screen

Too crass to be labeled a satire of American law enforcement and too hilariously absurd to be written off, “Reno 911!: Miami” is this century’s equivalent to the Keystone Kops. The only difference is Charlie Chaplin sports hot pants, Buster Keaton does blow and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle gets Tasered by an underage hooker.

“Reno 911!: Miami” successfully extends Comedy Central’s streak of great TV-to-film adaptations (“MST3K: The Movie,” “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut,” “Strangers With Candy”). The film is more than faithful to the original series, but it is also willing to explore the R-rated freedom that exists outside the stranglehold of the Federal Communications Commission.

Filmed as if Chris Guest were allowed to guest direct an episode of “Cops,” “Reno 911!: Miami” documents the egregious exploits of the Reno, Nev., Sheriff’s Department, perhaps the worst police force in the country.

The department’s leader is Lieutenant Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon). Lennon’s Dangle is a lovingly delusional halfwit: a scrawny Matthew McConaughey in biker shorts that makes Chief Wiggum look like Serpico.

Dangle’s partner in crime deterrence is Deputy Travis Junior (Ben Garant), a NASCAR–loving redneck whose idea of casual wear is a T-shirt with a picture of a stripper that reads, “I support single Moms.”

The band of scrappy officers is invited to the annual police convention in Miami, a sunny departure from equally sunny Reno, with more nude beaches and nightclubs, plus enough comedian cameos to film a sequel to “The Aristocrats.”

Patton Oswalt greets the Reno crew as Miami’s deputy mayor, and Paul Rudd, with a bottle of spray-on tanning lotion, makes for a hilarious “Scarface” parody. The boys from “Stella” work as sketchy tattoo artists: David Koechner plays Aspen’s sheriff, and Duane “The Rock” Johnson gets laughs as a gruff cop who learns the gory way that he shouldn’t handle grenades so recklessly.

But the film’s true stars are from the Reno Sheriff’s Department, who are as hopelessly out of place in Miami’s decadence as they are at home in its sleaze. When they are eventually called on to save the city after a terrorist attack disrupts the police convention, their heroic exploits are more of an afterthought than a plot point. This is fine, since there’s so much for the Reno cops to see and do on their new police beat. There are dead crocodiles in swimming pools to get rid of, rotting beached whales to remove and lots of fancy police equipment to destroy in the process.

“Reno 911!: Miami” never takes itself too seriously to slow down, even for a scene. The penis jokes and fart gags come in rapid succession, but if one is patient, the moments of true genius will come. One such moment is a brilliantly filthy homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.” It’s a single wide shot of the Reno Sheriff’s Department, in their separate motel rooms, seen through the window in stages of coitus, copulation and splooshing.

Taking a page from Sacha Baron Cohen’s playbook, the guys from “Reno 911!” have been doing almost all their promotional work in character. And like Cohen’s Borat, Garant and Lennon have come to view

Deputy Junior and Lt. Dangle less as characters and more as extensions of their being. Getting so deeply into character comes in handy, since “Reno 911!,” like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” scripts only the basic essentials

to the story, and pads the rest with improvisation. In other words, the actors behave just like their characters. They don’t really know what they’re doing, but they just make it up as they go.

“Reno 911!: Miami” was written by Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney and Thomas Lennon, and directed by Garant.

“Reno 911!: Miami” received three out of four stars.