Nothing can separate the geniuses behind “Reno 911” from their own brilliance. From Bush to Biden, every iteration of the show is consistently hilarious. “Reno 911!: The Hunt For QAnon” extends the franchise’s long record of greatness, and that’s despite today’s crippling pressures of groupthink.
Few comedic offerings have mocked the absurdity of post-Obama politics with much success. “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” is a holdover from the Bush era, which explains its ability to skewer right and left without forcing some vapid and ritualistic partisan endorsement. “Reno 911!” premiered two years earlier, all the way back in 2003, lampooning both sides of the culture wars just as they began congealing. The Q-centric film on Paramount+ retains that strength at a time when most comedy writers feel compelled to couch satire of the left with cheap signals of their progressivism.
“The Hunt for QAnon” also retains another key feature of the show from its Comedy Central days. Unlike most modern comedy, “Reno” (and “Sunny”) is perfectly comfortable as satire. It’s absurd, it’s offensive, it’s crass, and it’s not going to take you on an emotional journey.
“The Hunt For QAnon” relies on some easy tropes and swings lazily at some low-hanging fruit, but the grand Q conspiracy, for all its insanity, is objectively hilarious. It always should have been seen as such, instead of breathlessly treated as a threat to national security, which helped the web of theories metastasize into something bigger.
Writers Robert Ben Garant, Keri Kenney, and Thomas Lennon (who you know as Junior, Wiegel, and Dangle) let us relax and see the grifty Q movement for what it is—a collection of crazies, cynics, and disaffected people looking to make sense of a bizarre world.
The moment it’s clear they still get it comes when a Q cruise the officers are on turns out to be absolutely loaded with undercover law enforcement. Basically nobody in our political establishment or popular culture concedes this is a real part of the narrative. But, as always, “Reno 911!” is here to save the day.
Like “Reno 911!: Miami,” “The Hunt For QAnon” is a low-budget, low-logic romp, casting the show’s best guest stars in new roles, taking the characters out of their usual environment into something even stranger. It’s just fun. It’s not trying to be anything other than fun. Doing that and doing it well is a lost art.
Even Quibi couldn’t dull the spirit of “Reno 911!” When a new, bite-sized version of the show premiered on Jeffrey Katzenberg’s ill-fated streamer, it was like the team hadn’t missed a beat. The same is true of “The Hunt For QAnon.”
Given all the time elapsed since the show first hit the airwaves, the consistency of the humor and the characters is absolutely remarkable. Nothing from new formats, the politics of the Trump era, or the pressures of the Biden era has made so much as a dent in the quality of “Reno 911!” That’s pretty cool.
While I do have a very legitimate complaint about Terry’s absence from the movie, it harkens to a freer time in comedy and culture, where 1) generally liberal comedians felt comfortable breaking boundaries and mocking everything that deserved mockery and 2) people put money behind comedy for the sake of comedy, not comedy delivered with a half-baked emotional subplot. If streamers can fund these niche projects to lure niche audiences, the next step is to make sure more artists are willing to make them.