Waking Up in Reno

dir. Brady

Opens Fri Oct 25

Various Theaters

Few experiences in life are as vapid and unfulfilling as sitting through a mediocre movie--the ones that leave you dry-mouthed, and with a vague sense of lost time better spent in the sunlight. Particular bile is reserved for those sorry cases that can't quite work up the gumption to be memorably wretched. Case in point: the long-in-the-can, country-honk odyssey Waking Up In Reno, which wafts swiftly across the senses like an errant beer belch, never to be recollected.

The plot concerns two mush-headed redneck couples packing up the RV and heading to a fabled monster-truck gala in the city, pausing for such tried-and-true conventions as a mammoth steak eat, armadillo speedbumps, and the occasional burst of honeywagon humor. Padding out the film is a bushel of sub-Foxworthy yokel gags and labored boudoir misunderstandings that wouldn't pass even during the Don Knotts era of Three's Company, culminating with a tipping-the-bellhop gag that first appeared in cave paintings. Tony Orlando sings a tune.

The cast does their best to live down to the material they've been saddled with. A much-thickened Patrick Swayze, far removed from his halcyon Roadhouse days of grace, slouches towards punchlines like a medicated golem. Natasha Richardson and Charlize Theron, meanwhile, bury their talents behind a haze of barn-broad accents and Dr. Pepper lipgloss. One exception, though, is Billy Bob Thornton, as the ceaselessly talking gonad who triggers off most of the plot complications. Whisper-thin and cartoon-wolf horny, his parched dustbowl delivery manages to ferret out whatever brief amusement is to be had. (Also, thank goodness for an unbilled Penelope Cruz, who infuses her too-brief lounge trollop cameo with a welcome tawdry glow.)

It beats sitting in the dark, I suppose.