“Reno 911!: Miami” is yet another spin on the venerable Keystone Cops formula, in which bumbling police make grand, embarrassing displays of their incompetence. That they succeed in accidentally thwarting the bad guys is part of the joke. They may not be able to tie their shoelaces without sparking a riot, but the cops in movies like “Police Academy,” “Super Troopers” and “Reno 911!” always get their man.
Inspired by the long-running Comedy Central series created by Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney and Thomas Lennon, veterans of MTV’s “The State,” “Reno 911!: Miami” is all but weightless. Held together ever so slightly by a plot involving a Scarface-style druglord (Paul Rudd) and his accomplice, the deputy mayor of Miami (Patton Oswalt), it is very much a skit stretched thin over the course of 84 instantly forgettable minutes.
And yet it’s not without charm. Garant, Kenney and Lennon, flanked by longtime colleagues Niecy Nash and Wendi McLendon-Covey, have developed an easy chemistry over the years, and their interplay, at its sharpest, is closer to the inspired silliness of “Super Troopers” than the tired slapstick of “Police Academy.” Lennon, in particular, keeps the material lively as Lt. Dangle, who makes no secret of his fondness for men and the incredibly tight shorts that he wears because, he says, they allow him the freedom to perform under pressure.
Not that there’s much pressure in his line of work. The officers of the Reno police force don’t prevent crime so much as they witness it, and while they’re right at home catching wild chickens on the lonely highways of northern Nevada, they shy away from the tougher assignments, like wrestling with alligators and coaxing beached whales back into the ocean. They’re likable characters who freely acknowledge their inadequacies, and you want to like the movie more because of them, but “Reno 911!: Miami” is too uneven. (That the title is one of its cleverest gags in hardly a recommendation.)
After a strong opening sequence and the officers’ predictably untriumphant (but noisy and lewd) arrival on the shores of South Beach, the inspiration ebbs and flows until, at last, the troupe runs out of ideas entirely. In the end, what happens is all so arbitrary that a call to 911 might be justified.
Reno 911!: Miami **
Starring Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney, Thomas Lennon, Niecy Nash, Mary Birdsong, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Patton Oswalt
Written by Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney
Directed by Robert Ben Garant
Running time 1 hour, 24 minutes