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Reno 911!: Miami

(2007) ** 1/2 R
84 min. 20th Century Fox. Director: Robert Ben Garant. Cast: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Niecy Nash, Mary Birdsong, Cedric Yarbrough.

Since 2003, the men and women of the Reno Sheriff's Department have created mayhem in a Comedy Central mockumentary sitcom. It's not the sort of show that sets the world on fire, but it does prove that the largely improvised format is viable for TV. Now Reno 911 is a movie with a purposely ridiculous title: Reno 911!: Miami. And while, I can't in good conscience recommend the movie, it should please fans of the show.

To hear Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) tell it, his team consists of "a couple of colored people" (Niecy Nash as bubble-butt Deputy Raineesha Williams and Cedric Yarbrough as Deputy S. Jones), "some white folks" (Kerry Kenney-Silver as Deputy Trudy Weigel, Wendi McLendon-Covey as Deputy Clementine Johnson, Carlos Alazraqui as Deputy James Garcia, director Robert Ben Garant as Travis Junior), "and a lesbian" (Mary Birdsong as Deputy Cherisha Kimball). To a one, they're dimwitted, as illustrated by an early scene in which all eight have difficulty subduing a single chicken.

It's simple moments like this—ones that could and often do fill the TV half-hours—that work best. The plus-sized plot finds the nation's top cops sidelined by bioterrorism at a police convention, leaving the Reno losers to patrol the city under the auspices of acting mayor Jeff Spoder (Patton Oswalt). As Junior sees it, Miami is "like Mayberry, except everyone's on crystal meth and prostitution's legal." Fans will take comfort in jokes preserved from the series, like Dangle habitually wearing short shorts, even in the rain (Lennon's character tells the camera, "I gotta be able to move like a cheetah. A law-enforcement cheetah"); Reno perp Terry—played by Nick Swardson—also plays a part.

Writers Garant, Lennon, and Kenney try to justify their big-screen outing with set pieces that take advantage of lots of extras (a Suge Knight birthday party), relatively pricy props (a beached whale at a topless beach), "action" (a bridge chase on golf carts), and sundry exploitations allowed by an R-rating (un-bleeped profanity and un-blurred nudity). Since Reno 911!: Miami comes from Danny DeVito's Jersey Films, we also get star cameos, beginning with DeVito himself. Since it's Miami, Paul Rudd shows up as a druglord who dresses and talks like Al Pacino in Scarface.

The writer-performers hail from MTV's defunct sketch show The State (fellow Statesmen show up in cameos), and they have a quicksilver sense of the absurd that puts Reno 911!: Miami a cut above most stupid comedies. One sequence is a logy masturbation farce set to "Pachelbel's Canon"—something, at least, that you don't see every day. But the humor feels cyclical, returning again and again to atrocious fashion choices, gross-outs, and idiotic on-the-job failures. While it's intermittently amusing, none of this was appointment television to begin with, so it's hard to imagine big crowds shelling out for it at the multiplex.

[NOTE: Fans should stick out all the way to the end of the credit roll for a few minutes of bonus footage.]

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