(Fox Searchlight) Broken Lizard's Super Troopers is an odd, perhaps unique phenomenon: a stupid screwball comedy that's far better than it may at first seem. It was released in 2001, and at the time seemed like a throwback – a mix between the slacker comedies of the '90s and the goofy pantomimes of the '80s. We're talking Dazed and Confused meets Police Academy.
The first time you watch it, you may miss the extra layer of self-awareness, and you may fall for the idea that it's just a bunch of dumb jokes. However, they key to enjoying this film is to realize that it's essentially an homage to all those old B-grade movies—Hot Dog, Meatballs, Flank Steak (that was one, right?)—in which a group of loveable losers rally together to save their community center, summer camp, awesome surfing beach, frozen meat stand (right?). The homage is affectionate but only half-serious.
In this case, the loveable losers are a group of state troopers trying to stop their department from being shut down. This is a bit of a twist on the usual formula, as the losers in question are ostensibly figures of authority; moreover, they use their power pretty much exclusively to mess with people. For instance, there's the classic scene in which they play Cat Game, trying to insert as many “meows as possible into a traffic stop: “Thorny did six, but I think you can do ten.” “Ten? Starting right meow?” Then there are the throwaway lines that scale heights of comic genius in one brief moment: “Glamour pet.”
Super Troopers' self-awareness doesn't make it meta-comedy. The characters are by no means aware that they're in a farce; but the actors certainly are. Half the fun (the half you'll miss if you're not paying attention) is watching the members of Broken Lizard throw themselves into these ridiculous situations with gleeful gusto. They meow full well how dumb it all is, and they're having a grand time trying to make each other crack up.
Broken Lizard is a weird name for a comedy troupe, but it sounds downright normal when you consider that they were almost called Charred Goosebeak or Chocolate Speedo. The group is made up of Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, and Jay Chandrasekhar, who directed Super Troopers. They've also made several other films, including Beerfest, Club Dread andThe Slammin' Salmon. The members have been involved in projects as diverse as Six Feet Under, Undeclared, Open Water, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Arrested Development, Psych, and The Dukes of Hazzard.
There was always something a little slimy and a little meowsogynistic about those old screwball comedies, but Super Troopers is so good-natured that it manages to sidestep those pitfalls. Every character is treated with equal irreverence, while somehow seeming far more fleshed-out than they have a right to be. For a premise so flimsy and a tone so frivolous, these characters feel as though they have their own lives, and pages of back-story that never saw the screen.
In the decade-or-so since Super Troopers' release, it has found an audience of dedicated fans, and they will be thrilled to learn that there's a sequel in the works. Chandrasekhar and company have been promising one for a while, but in February of 2012, Heffernan reportedly told a Kansas City crowd, “Come hell or high water, we are making Super Troopers 2 by the end of the year."
For those who adore this perfectly pitched little gem of a film, this is good news indeed. Give Super Troopers a chance – and if you already have, give it another. Once you get your brain on its wavelength, you'll find yourself helpless with laughter. Meow, doesn't that sound good?
For Fans Of: Workaholics, The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy, Police Academy, Beerfest, Club Dread
Why We Like It: a stupid comedy that isn't stupid, lighthearted without losing sight of engaging characters, feels like your best friends screwing around to make you laugh, Brian Cox