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For a while there, RUN RONNIE RUN seemed like the stuff of legend.
Fans of the HBO sketch-comedy sensation Mr. Show with Bob and David have been anticipating the release of the feature debut from the program's creators, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. And for a while there, it appeared that the film would never see an official release. Filming began in late 2000, and the final cut was sent to distributor New Line Cinema by the fall of 2001. Unfortunately, it didn't make it much further than that. New Line premiered the film at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002, and it received some good buzz. Later, the film was shopped around at a few other small festivals, but a mainstream release just didn't seem to be in the cards. Meanwhile, copies of an early cut of the film began circulating on the internet and were getting mixed reviews. Finally, New Line discarded the idea of a theatrical run in favor of a straght-to-DVD release in late 2003, two years after the film was in the can.
The film, of course, centers around a character from one of the series' most popular sketches: Ronwell Q. Dobbs, better known as Ronnie. Ronnie, as portrayed by David Cross, is the quintessential white trash archetype. He sports the classic mullet atop his IQ-challenged noggin, guzzles cheap beer with his redneck buddies outside his trailer home, and frequently finds himself in jail for doing stupid shit while under the influence. In fact, he's kind of become a bit of a cult sensation, having appeared on a Cops-styled television show so many times that he's almost instantly recognizeable. His antics cause him to be estranged from his on-again, off-again ex-wife with whom he has four children.
When Ronnie is caught in his latest forage into stupidity, he draws the attention of a TV producer named Terry Twillstein, played by Bob Odenkirk. Terry makes a deal with the local sheriff to allow for Ronnie's release in exchange for a promise that he would never set foot in his hometown of Doraville, Georgia again. Terry springs Ronnie and centers an entire television program around him: "Ronnie Dobbs Gets Arrested". Ronnie goes from city to city around the world, getting himself in the same stupid situations as before, but this time being paid well for his efforts. Ronnie finds himself in the lap of luxury, mingling with celebrities, and bedding the woman of his dreams. Still, he can't help longing for that simpler life that he once embraced.
Along the way, a horde of celebrities make cameos. R. Lee Ermey appears as a militant contestant on a Survivor inspired television series, Jack Black appears in a snippet from a rather inappropriate children's film, David Foley, Andy Richter, and Sarah Silverman appear as gullible TV execs, Nikki Cox appears as the object of Ronnie's lust, and Patrick Warburton drops in as the head of the Gay Conspiracy. On top of that, though, there are even more celebrities rubbing shoulders with Ronnie while playing themselves: Jeff Goldblum (whose cameo is surreal and hysterical,) Ben Stiller, Mandy Patinkin (from Ronnie Dobbs: The Musical,) Trey Parker and Matt Stone, John and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Kathy Griffin, Garry Shandling, and Scott Thompson are all on board.
The film has its hits and misses. While the majority of the movie is fairly pedestrian lowbrow comedy, the film definitely nails some wit in a lot of places. Parodies run rampant, most notably the obvious lampooning of such TV institutions as Survivor, Cops, and king of infomercials Amazing Discoveries. One of the film's funniest (and crudest) moments occurs when Bob and David mock a boy band dubbed Three Times One Minus One in a video for "The Greatest Love in History." The film actually starts off really slow, and for a moment looked like a total waste of time. Trust me, though, it does improve after that first twenty minutes.
Obvious comparisons to David Spade's white trash opus JOE DIRT immediately spring to mind, and the films aren't that dissimilair on the surface. But while DIRT was merely a shallow attempt to mock white trash culture, RONNIE embraces it. It helps that the character's creator, David Cross, is all too familiar with his settings here, hailing from Doraville himself. RONNIE is also exponentially more crude than JOE DIRT could be, which is always a plus.
I actually enjoyed RUN RONNIE RUN far more than I figured I would. After the long period of hype, it was met with less than stellar reviews while being circulated among file-swapping programs. I expected it to be no better than the reviews, and as a result never watched this unauthorized version floating about despite having a copy of it on a CD-Rom. When the video was released with a final edit, however, I decided to give it a try, and was actually pretty impressed with what I saw. No, it's not high-class stuff by any means, but for the most part, the film works, and it offers some moments where there's a bit of real brilliance shining through.
The DVD also has some pretty interesting deleted scenes, including a longer sequence with Jack Black as the foul-mouthed Chimney Sweep and a much longer ending. The highlight of the bonuses is an incredibly well-executed sequence where Bob and David step out of character for a moment and complain aout the film. The way the actors transition so smothly from characters to themselves and back, as well as the way the film is able to step outside of the fantasy realm while showing the set and back into the scene, is a testament to the abilities of those involved. The scene was likely deleted because of the way it disrupted the flow of the film, and possibly also because it was a little bit risky to try and pull off for a mainstream audience. The interaction between the real Bob and David helped make Mr. Show work, but it may have been too much for the film itself.
Unfortunately for the film, its long incubation period may have been its undoing for a lot of people. After years of waiting, a lot of people were disappointed. Bob and David even admitted that the cut flying around the internet wasn't very good and expressed their desire to "kill" the project on their website. In fact, I'll let them tell you themselves:
Run Ronnie Run - seriously, let's put this thing to bed. Better yet, let's kill it as it sleeps peacefully. If any situation called for an act of euthanasia, this is it. Both Bob and I agree that all in all, the movie is not that great. While it definitely has some very funny moments, the current cut of the movie that is out there being screened and traded on the internet, just isn't that good. There are very specific notes for a different cut (that Troy Miller, the director is enthusiastic about) ready to be input, which we all feel would make the movie, tighter, funnier, and generally more enjoyable all around. And I truly believe that the drama around New Line's decision to not release it (which Bob and I have unfortunately contributed far to much too) has only served to heighten expectations to a level that the current cut of movie cannot live up to.
So, please everybody, let's put our petty differences behind us for once, and let us all band together for a common good. Please stop wanting to see the movie, asking about it, or online chatting about it. Perhaps the sooner we put this national nightmare behind us, the sooner Bob and I can get working on our next project (Hooray For America - The Movie?) Let's kill Run Ronnie Run once and for all.
Well, I'd certainly look forward to a second feature from Bob and David. Here's to hoping.
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