Sunday, June 23, 2024

‘Super Troopers 2’ Is A Nice Comedic High With A Few Buzz Kills

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All cards on the table…I cackled like a banshee during much of Super Troopers 2. It has seemingly no structure, its visual style is non-existent, and the plot serves more as a notion of an excuse to move from joke to joke. But at barely an hour and a half, the time flies.

Super Troopers 2 is a sequel and the brainchild of the comedy troupe Broken Lizard. The troupe funded the movie largely through a Kickstarter campaign. The major studios balked at the idea of a sequel some ten years later. Why studios all of a sudden think sequels to movies that came out a decade ago are a bad investment is beyond me. But such is the logic of Hollywood. If you donated to the Kickstarter campaign, you will more than likely be pleased with the final product. At the very least Broken Lizard strives to make sure you get your money’s worth.

Our heroes are called back into action by Governor Jessman (Lynda Carter) after being fired twice. First from the Highway Patrol and then by the local police force. Luckily for them, governmental bureaucracy arrives to save the day. The United States has realized that part of the border Vermont shares with Canada is off by a few miles. After some backroom negotiations, they’ve managed to annex part of Canada into Vermont. They need a temporary police force, and so the boys are given a third chance to prove themselves.

Captain O’Hagen (Brian Cox) is back in charge. “In charge” is a loose term considering this bunch is more like a herd of kittens than actual patrolmen. His second in command, Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar), is back and forced to shave his burly mustache to regulation length. Foster (Paul Soter) and Mac (Steve Lemme) are back as well. Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske), no longer a rookie, but still the youngest on the force is still struggling for some respect. To the dismay of O’Hagen and the rest, we also have the return of the loud-mouthed, vulgar, obnoxious, clueless and utterly unlovable Farva (Kevin Heffernan).

Farva is one of the great heels of modern comedies. A caricature of the person that everybody has known and that everybody has hated. A clueless oaf that is so desperate to be included but is so lacking in basic empathy or understanding of societal contextual clues as to render the area around him uninhabitable. He is so hated by his colleagues that they delight in constantly humiliating him at every turn. What is remarkable about Heffernan’s performance is that he plays Farva with such ruthless abandon we never feel sorry for him.

When Rabbit meets a beautiful girl who works for the Canadian government office, Genevieve Aubois (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Farva bets him a dollar that he can “nail her” before he does. Rabbit is shocked and speechless at the sheer offensiveness of Farva’s bet. He tries to explain to Farva what an idiot he is but this only causes Farva to up the ante. Farva then announces whoever “gets her first” has to chop off his big toe, liquefy it, and drink it.

The absurdity of the escalation is matched only by others begging Rabbit to take the bet, not because they agree with him. They too realize the absurdity of it all but can’t pass up the chance to see Frava harm himself. Before you can feel sorry for Farva though he then takes the bet as sealed based on nothing but Rabbit’s continued confused look. Heffernan’s ability to somehow make Farva so completely unlikable that you can’t even feel pity for him is truly impressive.

Broken Lizard movies tend to be a string of loosely tied together events to form an illusion of a story. Like the Three Stooges, they look for an excuse, any excuse, to get to a joke. Take the moment when the group is walking toward an abandoned cabin in the woods. Run down, covered in leaves, there is a tire on the roof. For those of you who are familiar with ram shackled buildings in cheap low budget movies, you will no doubt know there is always something on the roof; usually a tire.

One of the men notice the tire and then ask the question, “What leads to someone throwing a tire on the roof?” What follows is a nonsensical jokey conversation which leads to one of the others making a pun about tires. Broken Lizard relishes in this bizarre self-aware long walk to get to a joke style of humor.

To call the officers in the Super Troopers movies “characters” seems overly charitable. They tend to play the notion of a character; absent of any real trait, they do each have their own off-kilter brand of humor. What unites them is their shared love for their fellow oddball; and their hatred of Farva.

The rivalry between Canada and America has always had an aura of fratish humor about it. Robin Williams once called Canada “The loft above a really great party.” Super Troopers 2 is hardly the first film to play with the non-existent tensions between the two inhabitants. Famed documentarian Michael Moore wrote and directed the John Candy vehicle Canadian Bacon. Candy plays a small town sheriff caught up in a scheme by the sitting President to start a war with Canada to improve his abysmal “peacetime approval ratings”.

Super Troopers 2 much like Canadian Bacon revels in allowing the two rival factions, the Americans and the Canadians, to kid each other. Stars like Will Sasso and Bruce McCulloch pop up as either cameos or recurring characters to join in the fun. Sasso plays Mountie Archambault, a member of a trio of Mounties along with Mountie Bellefuille (Tyler Labine) and Mountie Podien (Hayes MacArthur). The three antagonize O’Hagen and his crew, only to end up eventually befriending them by the end.

Broken Lizard allows everyone some time to play though. The trio of Mounties have a conversation in which Archmbault argues with Bellefuille that the Danny DeVito in Taxi is not the Danny DeVito in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. When pressed by Poiden how Archmbault can be so stupid, he smiles. “I know that. I’m just messing with him.” Everyone is given a chance to dabble in the Broken Lizard playground.

Everyone that is, except women. Emmanuelle Chriqui’s character is the stereotypical sexpot. Her job is to roll the boulder of the plot along while posing for the male gaze. While she is allowed to be competent and clearly smarter than the boys, she is almost never allowed to play verbally or physically.

To add insult to injury, there’s a running gag with Thorny becoming addicted to a female hormone drug. A lazy and outdated gag which causes him to become emotional, “catty”, lose his sense of direction, and eventually lactate. Super Troopers 2 is not a deft comedy, but this is so appallingly lazy it almost sinks the entire movie. Rob Lowe plays the mayor of the town. He has a joke about the Halifax explosion and the death of a First Nations tribe that somehow reaches new lows of tastelessness and not in a jovial way.

I guess you could argue that all of this is a side effect of Broken Lizard’s buckshot style of comedy. But outdated gags that even sitcoms steer clear of, along with a throwaway ethnic joke about colonization and genocide feels callous and ill-conceived. They put a damper on what is mostly a laconic stoner hang out comedy about drugs, bears, and Canadians.

Chandrasekhar directs Super Troopers 2  with a laid back observing eye. This is Chandrasekhar’s eighth outing as a director and from what I can tell he seems to be aiming for the school of “in focus”.  Super Troopers 2  is not abysmal to look at but neither is it all that interesting. But he knows how to film a sight gag and the film is over before it can become too grating. Sometimes a director’s skill is less framing a perfect shot and more just making sure the comedy in focus and the film doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

The strikeouts don’t outnumber the hits but that doesn’t mean Super Troopers 2 doesn’t suffer because of them. Still, I laughed more than I didn’t. When it comes to a comedy the bottom line is did you laugh enough to warrant the time and money? I laughed plenty, especially at a running gag involving a ride along gone horribly wrong involving Fred Savage. But if the female hormonal gag or if the First Nation joke leaves a bad taste in your mouth, keep you from seeing the movie, I don’t blame you a bit.

Image courtesy of Broken Lizard Industries

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