Make the biggest little mistake of your life

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“Reno 911!: Miami”20th Century Fox and Paramount PicturesDirected by Ben GarantWritten by Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney-SilverStarring: Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Ben Garant, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Niecy Nash, Mary Birdsong, Cedric Yarbrough, Carlos Alazraqui and Patton OswaltRated R/84 minutesOpened Feb. 23, 2007Two-and-a-half out of four stars

The men and women who make up the fictional Reno Sheriff’s Department in “Reno 911!: Miami” are so incompetent, they can’t even arrest a jaywalking chicken without all eight or nine of them coming at the animal from every side. When that doesn’t work, they pull their guns and agree to shoot on the count of three so no one knows who fired the killing bullet. Of course, that doesn’t work and bullets fly erratically. All this trouble over a poor chicken that was simply trying to cross the road.

The idea behind “Reno 911!: Miami,” as well as the Comedy Central TV show on which it is based, is that a documentary crew, la “Cops,” has been given full access to film the absurd goings-on at the Reno Sheriff’s Department, which functions more as an institution for sexual deviants and bumbling fools than a law enforcement office. “Reno” aims for the same deadpan, mostly improvised approach taken by “Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show,” though it’s not as sharp on the comedic timing as the two, and it’s much, much lewder.

Watching the inept officers deal with gator-wrestling rednecks, noise-violating rappers and a Miami drug lord who tortures his tied-up victims with a weed-whacker (nice poke at “Scarface”) elicits mostly mild chuckles, with a few laugh-out-loud moments here and there. I like how the movie and the actors don’t strain for laughs, but lax attitudes can be a bit ho-hum at times, even for a movie that runs just 84 minutes.

Ranking officer Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) and his fellow deputies receive an invitation to attend a national police convention in Miami Beach. “We were invited?” he says, as if he’s leading up to something flattering, “?because everyone was.”

A reservation snafu combined with a bio-terrorism attack on the convention center puts the entire Miami police force out of commission, leaving the Reno clowns in charge of patrolling the city. Lucky them. Unlucky for the city.

The rest of the movie is essentially a string of skits as the Reno deputies prove to be the least effective crime-fighting league since the Keystone Cops. My favorite episode involves a rotting beached whale on a topless beach. When pushing the animal back into the water doesn’t work, Lt. Dangle comes up with an idea that PETA would definitely not approve of. There’s also an extended scene at a motel where the lonely sexual activities of the Reno deputies reaches a widescreen crescendo that’s funny in the same way a dog humping a pillow is: You can’t help but laugh at those stupid animals.

I also enjoyed the numerous celebrity cameos, including The Rock as a bicep-brained S.W.A.T. team commander with butterfingers, and Paul Rudd as a Cuban drug lord with an embarrassing secret. There’s also a running joke about how everyone who could possibly rescue the Reno deputies from their predicament is accidentally or suddenly killed.

Of the cast, Thomas Lennon has created a real buffoon in Lt. Dangle, a selfish, ambiguously gay jerk in crack-invading short shorts. He stands out amongst the rest of the group, which also includes the promiscuous Clementine (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the sweet and awkward Trudy (Kerri Kenney-Silver) and loud-mouth Raineesha (Niecy Nash), who schools Trudy in the ways of talking “street.”

“Reno 911!: Miami” is rated R for countless ribald situations, but the movie is never tasteless because the sheer idiocy of the deputies is so endearing. They’re like police aliens from another planet, experiencing our world with eyes wide open and pants down.