SUPER TROOPERS 2
2018, R, 100 mins.
Jay Chandrasekhar as Arcot 'Thorny' Ramathorn / Kevin Heffernan as Rodney Farva / Steve Lemme as MacIntyre 'Mac' Womack / Erik Stolhanske as Robert 'Rabbit' Roto / Paul Soter as Carl Foster / Emmanuelle Chriqui as Genevieve
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar / Written by Broken Lizard
Comedy sequels are a very tricky business, especially when they come several years after a cherished one that became a cult hit, leaving the makers with the dubious creative task of trying to rekindle the first entry's lighting in a bottle essence.
When the original SUPER TROOPERS opened way, way back in 2001 - one of the earliest feature films from the comedy troupe Broken Lizard - it never emerged as a major box office smash, but it nevertheless found a sizable audience later on home video, which helped elevate it to aforementioned cult status. There was this sense that SUPER TROOPERS had this mysterious aura of discovery about it. When I discovered it as a University student at my local video store I became enamored with the film's unpredictable and infectious brand of spirited tomfoolery.
I told my friends about it...and they told their friends...and so
on and so on.
Broken Lizard - made up of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Hefferman, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske - never really found much popular and critical success with their post SUPER TROOPER films (offerings like BEERFEST and THE SLAMMIN' SALMON were decent, if not forgettable, whereas CLUB DRED was awful), which, I guess, precluded the team returning to well, so to speak, with a SUPER TROOPER sequel was a foregone conclusion. A crowd funding campaign was launched in 2015, which led to over $2 million being raised in just 24 hours, proving that there was definitely an appetite for the follow-up entry.
Ultimately and regardless of origins, the question remains as to whether or not the 17 year wait was well worth it for SUPER TROOPERS 2, and the short answer is...sort of.
On a positive,
this sequel is not a dry rehash of the original and aims - as all good
sequels should - to take the characters in new directions, which this film
does. The level of spirited
hijinks in lampooning highway patrolmen is enthusiastically duplicated
here, and Broken Lizard's performers remain as kooky and easily likeable
as ever. Yet, for every new
gag and pratfall that works sensationally well here there are a handful of
others that don't, and at a running time of well over 90 minutes SUPER
TROOPERS 2 feels more needlessly self indulgent and bloated than it should
be. But when it delivers...oh my...it delivers.
But, what has
happened to the members of the Spurberry Police department over the last
decade-plus? It seems that
former highway patrolmen Thorny (Chandrasekhar), Rabbit (Stolhanske), Mac
(Lemme), Jeff (Soter) and (shivers) Farva (Hefferman) have lost their jobs
because of a freak accident involving one famous celebrity (that I won't
reveal here) getting killed while in their care during a ride alone to research a role. The
down on their luck boys are reduced to construction jobs, but are forced
to deal with (shivers) the obnoxiously pig headed Farva being their
foreman. They still enjoy the
odd fishing trip with their old boss in Captain O'Hagen (a very game Brian
Cox) whenever they can to keep their sanity in check.
Granted, it's awfully hard for these poor saps to keep their sanity
when they have Farva barking orders in their ears on a daily basis.
Fate, as it
always does, conveniently steps in for the squad in the form of Vermont
Governor Jessman (Lynda Carter), who reveals to them all that a Canadian
border town in Quebec - because of a laughably geographical loophole - is
technically on America soil and thus will need to be baby stepped into
becoming an American city. Now,
because there are, for reasons never fully explained, no other men for the
job, the Governor decides to re-enlist O'Hagen and company to become
officers once again and to journey to the Great White North and help segue
these hockey and poutine loving hosers into proud Yankees.
The team is greeted early on by its ex-hockey player turned mayor,
Guy (Rob Lowe, in a hysterically obvious wig), and his assistant Genevieve
(Emmanuelle Chiqui), but some Mounties - (Will Sasso, Tyler Labine,
and Hayes MacArthur) - and the local citizens take an immediate hostile
dislike to the these officers trying to culturally and spiritually convert
them. It also doesn't help
matters when Farva desperately tries to force the angry crowd at a town
hall to shut their maple syrup holes and recite the Pledge of Allegiance
to the U.S. flag.
Ample - ahem!
It could be
easily argued that the plot alone is just a series of sitcom worthy
contrivances strung together as a closeline for the comedy...which is
true. It also doesn't take a
fortune teller to discover what nefarious parties are behind a secret
America to Canada underground drug smuggling ring that the troopers
predictably bust wide open. Nothing
about the overall plotting of SUPER TROOPERS 2 is novel or inspired, but
this is not a sequel that's guilty of remaking its antecedent, nor does it
lazily mime some of its best bits (even though there are amusing call backs
to the first film's most famous wordplay).
SUPER TROOPERS 2 deserves some props for trying to be different,
and the complete shift in locale to Canada is welcome and a source of some
of the film's best jokes, which are largely at the extent of the shared
mutual distrust that the American and Canadian officers have with one
another. There's an awful lot of satirizing - in a
refreshingly non-hostile manner - of Canadian customs, norms, and
stereotypes, like my nation's fascination with the metric system, our
peoples' obsessive desire to be polite, our adoration of Hockey Night in
Canada, and how we pronounce "about" and "sorry."
Again, this isn't highbrow stuff, but SUPER TROOPERS 2 displays a
frivolous sense of easygoing whimsy that's welcoming in a relative age of
comedies that aim for puerile gross out gags.
Much like its
predecessor, SUPER TROOPERS 2 is gloriously and entertaining stupid
throughout and when it scores big laughs (which it does frequently) it's
an awfully hard film to hate. Broken
Lizard as a whole - who have aged gracefully well during the last near
twenty years - have a level of nonchalant and unforced camaraderie that
still carries this sequel even when it misfires. Now, some infantile humor does permeate the film (like the
group's fixated desire to shave Rabbit's genitals or how they use night
vision goggles to watch Farva break wind or urinate), but it never
feels aggressively mean spirited. Other
jokes score higher, like one small moment involving O'Hagen discovering
that Farva eats M & M's whole, or a superb opening sequence that has one of the men dreaming that they're all traveling rock stars
that sees their van plummet off of the road and down a cliff, killing them
all. One of the best bits
features Thorny and Mac donning stolen Mounties garb and pulling over
one Anglophone couple while engaging in a side-splitting exchange of horribly made up French words that leaves the couple
dumbfounded. Thorny also becomes the victim of a long running joke in the film
after he gets addicted to a confiscated Canadian female hormonal drug called
"Flova Scotia", which leaves the officer
becoming more thoroughly emasculated with each new pill pop.
The Mounties also
have their moment to comedically shine, such as one of the funniest scenes
in the film when they all engage in a ridiculously angry debate about the
career of Danny DeVito and what films and TV shows he really starred in.
Lowe as well is staggeringly goofy as the uber Canadian mayor that
runs a unisex brothel and has a penchant for lashing out with Canuck
centric declarations like "Great Tim Horton's ghost!"
There's an undeniable and underlining spirit of willingness on
Broken Lizard's part to do whatever is necessary to generate ample hearty
chuckles throughout. SUPER
TROOPERS 2 is jam packed to the hilt with so much unbridled comic
nuttiness that you just have to appreciate the troupe's enthusiastic
desire to placate their fanbase that crowd funded the film in the first
place. Even when the
narrative careens down some woefully predictable paths, it's the
unpredictably zany chaos that Broken Lizard enthusiastically unleashes
that helps keep things jubilantly afloat.
When I entered the cinema with my popcorn and "litre of cola" I had preconceived notions of what kind of film I was getting into with SUPER TROOPERS 2. I think my expectations were both placated and modestly exceeded with the final product. I almost shouldn't recommend it: There are many dead spots in the film when the humor falls flat, and it's certainly apparent that this sequel would never capture the first installment's come out of nowhere dynamic appeal. And at 100 minutes, SUPER TROOPERS 2 feels about ten minutes too long; comedies really sing when they're built on the headstrong momentum of a running time that doesn't make viewers check their watches (more than the first, this film feels like a series of vignettes haphazardly strung together to make a movie). Yet, as an engine designed to make me laugh, SUPER TROPPERS 2 achieves its status quo, and compared to Broken Lizard's inconsistent recent feature films, it's a far cry better on that relative comparison. And, damn it, I liked watching these knuckleheads again. Here's hoping that their next film will come not later, but sooner...and hopefully right "meow" while the getting is good.