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Reviewed May 22nd, 2003 by David Nusair


Wakin’ Up in Reno is one of those movies that’s essentially entertaining, but unmemorable to the point that it’ll be completely forgotten minutes after it’s over.

The story concerns two couples – comprised of Candy (Charlize Theron) and Roy (Patrick Swayze), and Lonnie Earl (Billy Bob Thornton) and Darlene (Natasha Richardson) – that decide to take a vacation together by driving down to Reno, Nevada. We learn almost immediately that Lonnie Earl and Candy have been having an affair, which you just know the other two are going to discover at some point.

Wakin’ Up in Reno is so silly and so pointless, that it’s hard to imagine what these four stars saw in the script (well, presumably Swayze was thrilled to even be considered for a non straight-to-video schlockfest). Writers Brent Briscoe and Mark Fauser infuse the screenplay with a variety of cliches and the whole thing just has an air of sitcom-ness about it. It’s not to surprising to learn, then, that the two were staff writers on the short-lived John Ritter show, Hearts Afire – which, not coincidentally, co-starred Thornton. This probably explains his presence in the film, but still, he is so far above this material it’s ridiculous.

But that doesn’t stop him from giving yet another transfixing performance. As sleazy car salesman Lonnie Early, Thornton ensures that the film is always somewhat watchable – even if it’s predictable to the point of absurdity. Swayze is just as good (surprisingly enough) playing Roy, a well-meaning dolt. Swayze clearly has not lost the charisma that made him a star in the ‘80s, and he’s at his best when he’s playing simplistic characters like Roy. If he could just keep away from lame action movies and suspense flicks like Letters from a Killer, he might just be able to jump-start his career. Theron and Richardson aren’t given much to do, though Richardson (a Brit) is quite convincing as a Southerner.

Director Jordan Brady thankfully keeps the pace brisk, and there’s a lot of colorful scenery to be had – but still, this is the sort of thing that works best when it’s made for TBS and stars Jack Wagner.

Audio: Wakin’ Up in Reno is presented with a DD 5.1 soundtrack and it’s not bad. Surrounds are kept to a minimum, but when they do crop up (especially during that monster truck rally towards the end), they’re surprisingly effective.

Video: This 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is expectedly clean and crisp. The film’s bright look has been duplicated quite nicely, and given the outrageous colors that are occasionally on display, that’s saying something.

Extras: First up is a commentary track featuring director Brady, and screenwriters Briscoe and Fauser. This is a pretty terrible commentary track, though, as the three spend most of the time making jokes only they get and explaining what’s happening on screen. Briscoe and Fauser’s comments seem to be limited to the “hey, that’s a neat shot” variety, while Brady does occasionally try to point out how certain shots were achieved. But really, this track contains about five minutes of worthy info. Next up are five deleted scenes, with optional commentary. These are all just as disposable as the film, so if you’re a fan… Rounding out the disc is a useless five-minute featurette on the making of the film, and trailers for Tangled, Ordinary Decent Criminal, Full Frontal, and the Osbournes DVD.

Conclusion: Wakin’ Up in Reno is an agreeable enough time waster that might be worth your while if you’re a fan of any of the cast.


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