Waking up in Reno

A Film Review By Michael Haley

Rating:R for strong language, sexual situations, and moronic behavior.
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Patrick Swayze, Cherlize Theron, Natasha Richardson, Penelope Cruz (unbilled, and I can’t blame her).
Directed By:Jordan Brady

Final Grade: <

Believe it or not, this film is monumental. Director Jordan Brady has achieved something that many other directors surely must have tried when directing pure shit, but have been unable to accomplish. There have been some good attempts…McHale’s Navy, Charlie’s Angels, Serving Sara…all noble efforts, but Brady has achieved a goal that leaves the directors of those other films hanging their heads in uttermost shame. That’s right…Brady has put together a film that is worse than Gone Fishin’. Hell, this film is so bad that it makes Gone Fishin’ look like Magnolia in comparison.

This film stars three good actors and Patrick Swayze, whom all decide one day to head out to Reno to see a monster truck show. There are two married couples here, Theron and Swayze on one end, Thornton and Richardson on the other, and they all believe that seeing a monster truck show is their big dream (which shows how pathetic their little dreams are). Theron is trying to have a baby, and Richardson doesn’t think Billy Bob loves her anymore. Well, along the way they discover a lot about themselves, such as one of them is having an affair with the other, that another doesn’t really love the other so much, and so on. Enough of the plot, cause I don’t want to think about it, and I don’t believe this movie will be in Ames any longer than three weeks so I’m not going to waste any more of my time summarizing it.

These characters are common, everyday folk. You could easily see these people wasting their lives in front of the television while waiting for Jerry Springer to confirm their R.S.V.P., hanging around the gas station getting high off gas fumes, and so forth. However, these four people are also dead on portrayals of the most moronic pieces of crap that waste our valuable food, water and energy. When Billy Bob downs a 72-ounce steak at a restaurant, we don’t feel happy that he finished it nor sad that he gets sick afterwards, we just lament that we live in a society where people as stupid as him are allowed the privilege to eat food. At no point did any of these characters do anything that could be considered remotely intelligent, say anything worth listening to, or act like human beings that possess a ninth grade education. These are the guys who would be identified as worthless losers in high school, and for once, the bully would be right. The movie makes the critical mistake of thinking that making these characters colorful automatically makes them funny, whereas their “southern colorfulness” only further distances themselves from the audience. We don’t care for one second about any of their ridiculous predicaments, because they react in such an overblown ludicrous manner that it simply boggles the mind.

And hoo boy! The crazy situations these guys get themselves into…when one character gets pregnant and finds that her husband can’t have children, and it turns out someone else might be the father…hilariousness ensues! The actor portraying the semen-less husband is moronic beyond belief in this scene, to the point where I was seriously considering running up to the projection room and destroying the film so no other poor soul would have the misfortune of wondering in this movie by mistake (who would honestly pay money for this?) The ending is ludicrous beyond all belief and simply must seen to be believed…I will not reveal how these characters solve their infidelity dilemmas, I’ll just say that how their reasoning simply defies any sort of logic and isn’t funny, it’s seriously retarded, in the true sense of the word. The actors are for the most part very strong performers (and in the case of Billy Bob, a strong director as well) so why they would pick this material is utterly beyond me.

The only positive moments of the film, a (potentially) strong soundtrack and the always lovely Penelope Cruz, are utterly wasted here as well. Some wonderful songs, such as These Boots are Made For Walkin’¸ Knock Three Times (If You Want Me), and other wonderful toons are remixed “country style.” Anyone who knows me knows that although I don’t believe in heaven and hell, I do believe there is a devil and it’s name is Country Music, and the inclusion of these bastardized songs is not only an insult, but a royal pain in the ass to listen to. And when Theron and Richardson start dancing to them on television…ooh, the torture was almost too much to bear. And then quite possibly the only highlight of the film, Penelope Cruz as a sarcastic and semi-intelligent hooker, is wasted too. She is thrown away quickly with extremely little screen times, and when Theron referred to her as a “skank” I literally went ballistic in the theatre (you do not disrespect Penelope! Ever!! That goes for you too, Jason!)

Than again, maybe this film does serve a purpose. I can easily see Waking Up in Reno in a humanities class someday to show us how truly low we as society can sink to be entertained. That is the only use I can imagine for this film, because to call this dreck entertaining is a funnier joke than any of the “humor” of the film. It’s truly disheartening when a film as wonderful as Spirited Away or even Storytelling has to fight kicking and screaming for a screen at the big Cineplex’s, whereas the booker sees Waking Up in Reno and thinks, “This laugh-a-second comedy will appeal to our white trash demographic nicely…better send it to Movies 12 in Ames.” This film is not only an embarrassment, but a torture to watch…I martyred myself watching all of it so YOU wouldn’t have to, and I’ll appreciate your thanks by e-mailing me telling me what an awesome guy I am.
Waking Up in Reno is one of the worst, if not the worst movie of the year, no question about it. Even Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever at least had…wait a minute, that movie didn’t have anything to recommend about it, either. This is one of those films that even though I didn’t pay for it, I still wanted my money back after watching it. Waking Up in Reno is a lot like being trapped on vacation with the four most annoying people in the country, although thankfully the movie lets you go home after ninety minutes, although you should have just stayed home in the first place.

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