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Premieres & Events

Reno by Way of Tribeca

By S.T. VanAirsdale

The Tribeca Cinema Series continued Wednesday with a preview of Reno 911: Miami, the feature-length film version of the Comedy Central show chronicling the professional trials and tribulations of Washoe County's finest. (And opening in wide release on Friday). As if the story mattered, the eight principals -- led by uniform-challenged Lieutenant Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) and comprising barely-sentient deputies like Travis Junior (Ben Garant) and Trudy Wiegel (Kerry Kenney) -- attend a police convention in Miami Beach, only to find themselves the city's lone cops after a biological agent inside the convention center strands 2,000 officers waiting for an antidote (and after, in a cameo, SWAT captain Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson blows himself up with hand grenade).

Laying down the law: (L-R) Thomas Lennon, Cedric Yarbrough, Niecy Nash, Carlos Alazraqui and Wendi McLendon-Covey taking questions as Lt. Dangle and Deputies Jones, Raineesha, Garcia and Clementine (Photos: STV)

Law enforcement hijinks ensue, antagonized by a simpering deputy mayor (Patton Oswalt) and a Tony Montana-esque, Weed-Eater wielding drug lord (Paul Rudd) and a litany of sexual frustrations. In keeping with 20th Century Fox's Borat-tested practice of pushing their comedy in character, Lennon, Garant, Kenney and their colleagues arrived for the screening's Q&A and after-party in full Miami Beach regalia.

"So how about some questions, yeah?" Dangle said "Do some people have some questions about our lives? Or how we've been horribly portrayed by the Comedy Central and Fox people here? I'd like to make one general comment: We don’t edit the film. What happens is they shoot us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They hand the footage over to (producer) Danny DeVito. He is drunk on limoncello. He cobbles it together with his little penguin flippers into this web of lies. If you believe what you see in this picture, you would think we’re a group of mostly incompetent, horny retards. And we're not that incompetent."

"Or retarded," said Deputy Jones, leaning in behind Dangle.

"We're not that incompetent," Dangle clarified. "Any other general notes? We don't get to do it, Danny DeVito, little flippers, limoncello --"

"I think you covered it," Junior said.

"Right," Dangle added. "Horrible web of lies. So I guess we'll take some questions."

The subsequent jokes are almost all lost here; there's only so many times you can read the written words "Dangle said" before the performance simmers into artifice. After a few totally unscripted bits about semi-erections and lobster pinchers and white ostrich boots, things livened up a bit when a viewer in the second row asked the group what films had inspired it. Dangle thought it over. "We don't have a first-run move theater, you know," he said.

The other three: (L-R) Kerry Kenney, Mary Birdsong and co-writer/director Ben Garant as Deputies Wiegel, Kimball and Junior

"We just got E.T. It's good," Junior said.

"He dies in the end," Trudie said. "But he comes back to life."

"But does he get away?" Jones asked.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Junior said. "Spoiler alert!"

" 'Spoiler alert' is what we say, right?" Dangle asked. "Spoiler alert!"

"But yeah, E.T. dies," Junior said.

Alas. The reception next door at the Tribeca Cinemas Gallery also welcomed Rudd and the Reno 911 troupe's former comrade-in-arms from The State, Michael Ian Black -- both out of character, both eschewing interviews. The rest of the event featured lengthy, camera-ready mugging and yukking that would have made Sacha Baron Cohen proud (and then weary, and then, after a vodka tonic or three, sustainably bemused). I'd say you really had to be there, but with the assiduously asinine (and dare I say endorseable?) film at the center of it all, it's more sensible to just say you can be there in the days ahead. Anything to neutralize the Oscar menace, you know?

UPDATE: As if you needed me to tell you, the video of the night's Q&A is probably funnier. Then there's the mugging.

Posted at February 22, 2007 8:26 AM

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