Waking Up In Reno

on October 25, 2002 by Tim Cogshell
"Waking up in Reno" is a redneck road movie. Lonnie Earl and Darlene (Billy Bob Thornton and Natasha Richardson) are the rednecks, and they are best friends with Roy and Candy (Patrick Swayze and Charlize Theron), who are also rednecks. They all go on the road from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Reno, Nevada, to attend a Monster Truck Rally. They are rednecks on a road trip from one redneck place to a shinier redneck place, doing redneck things all the way. It's a sort of a "Bob and Carol & Ted and Alice" scenario--but with rednecks.

Lonnie and Darlene are in rut. Darlene is looking for romance but won't let Lonnie touch her, so Lonnie, who is not romantic, is doing Candy. Roy and Candy (who, again, is sleeping with Lonnie) are newlyweds trying to get pregnant, thus constantly interrupting the trek to do it every few miles, messing up Lonnie's tight schedule. The whole damn thing is ripe for the Jerry Springer crowd. It's all pretty cynical and condescending, too. And it's not nearly as sexy as and quirky as it would like to be. None of the characters are likable; even the put-upon Darlene, the ostensible moral center of the film, is irritatingly self-righteous. She demands nothing and gets nothing; then, when she finds out Lonnie is cheating on her with her best friend, she goes shopping and smashes his truck. It's all too damn sassy.

Still, it's not that bad. Watching two epitomes of sophistication and style (Richardson and Theron, not Billy Bob and Swayze) play a couple of overly bleached K-Mart shoppers from the belly of the country is pretty funny. But when the filmmakers try to speak to the human condition, "Waking up in Reno" gets obnoxious and bogged down in hokey down-home wisdom and life-changing revelations that require shopping sprees, Elizabeth Arden makeovers and car wrecks. Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Charlize Theron, Patrick Swayze and Natasha Richardson. Directed by Jordan Brady. Written by Mark Fauser and Brent Briscoe. Produced by Ben Myron, Robert Salerno and Dwight Yoakam. Comedy/Romance. A Miramax release. Rated R for language and some sexual content. Running time 100 min

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