The Accidental Importance of Jeremy Renner’s ‘Rennervations’: TV Review
“Considering all the injuries I have, I’m just glad I can still do what I’m good at.”
This line is not spoken by Jeremy Renner, but it’s still the sentiment that hangs over “Rennervations,” the four-part docuseries streaming this Wednesday on Disney+. After a Jan. 1 snow plow accident outside his Reno, Nevada home left Renner with life-threatening injuries, the show’s Tuesday premiere will mark his first public, in-person appearance since. (Renner also sat down for an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, which aired earlier this week.) “Rennervations” is designed to be a feel-good show, following the actor as he restores retired vehicles for use by youth-focused charities. But offscreen events have conspired to give its predictable triumphs — assignment, engineering, execution, delivery — an added dimension.
Renner is almost as well-known for his various side hustles as his on-screen Avenging. He’s a musician who released an EP in the early days of lockdown; the creator and namesake of the short-lived, widely memed Jeremy Renner Official app; and a prolific house-flipper. Though the name “Rennervations” conjures visions of shiplap and gray laminate floors, the show is in fact dedicated to a different, and less publicized, passion entirely. Renner is the proud owner of hundreds of decommissioned government vehicles, from ambulances to buses to fire trucks, which he keeps and restores at a yard near his house. The collection feels like what might happen if a Tonka-obsessed kid came into some Marvel money as an adult — which is also, one suspects, exactly what it is.
“Rennervations” takes an innocuous hobby and spins it into an active good. Partnering with organizations like The BASE Chicago and Cabo San Lucas’s Casa Hogar, Renner and his team turn corroded husks into dance studios, rec centers and water treatment facilities. Renner’s willing sidekick is his friend Rory Millikin, a loud, affable presence who contributes little in the way of construction know-how, but stays game to endure some good-natured joshing. This is still Disney, so the ribbing never packs any real punch.
The true stars of “Rennervations,” though, turn out to be Renner’s regular crew, plus the local artisans he works with on a trip to Rajasthan, India. The lead fabricator, who goes by Bender, tears up recalling a childhood spent in foster care while working on a project for the Boys & Girls Club; Shanti Devi, the only female truck mechanic in India, casually takes charge. Renner brings in celebrity friends like Vanessa Hudgens and Anthony Mackie to amp up the glitz, but the series’ spotlight feels better used on craftspeople whose talents aren’t valorized nearly as often.
Hovering over it all, of course, is Renner’s own recent experience. The actor has an earnestness that can be overwhelming; this cynic squirmed at the star’s solo, slowed-down performance of “House of the Rising Sun,” an inadvertent bit of macho camp. (No wonder Renner has found a home in the Taylor Sheridan cinematic universe with “Mayor of Kingstown.”) But Renner’s recovery lends the inspirational tone of “Rennervations” extra heft. Many of Renner’s collaborators bear lasting scars from their labor, even as their dedication remains undimmed. “Rennervations” doesn’t draw any parallels, or make any mention of the accident at all. But viewers undoubtedly will.
All four episodes of “Rennervations” premiere on Disney+ on April 12.