Had a genial, lowbrow farce like Super Troopers been the acquisitions hit of the Sundance Film Festival 10 years ago, there would have been apocalyptic talk about the Death Of Independent Cinema. But in 2002, when major studios are no longer interested in bankrolling crude, unpretentious slobs-vs.-snobs comedies like Caddyshack or Stripes, it appears that the indie slobs have triumphantly carried the day. The writers, director, and stars of Super Troopers are members of the sketch-comedy troupe Broken Lizard, so it's not surprising that the hit-or-miss material has been arranged with the choppy, episodic beats of an improv show. For retro-'80s fun, the film has nothing on its underrated Sundance sibling Wet Hot American Summer, which evokes the same nostalgia for a generation that spent much of its youth staring blankly at late-night television. But with no greater ambition than reworking the Police Academy movies, Broken Lizard comes up with a winning formula: one part laughs to two parts goodwill. Put in charge of a 50-mile highway stretch near the Canadian border, a ragtag unit of Vermont State Troopers spends its days harassing motorists, hazing a rookie, and pulling practical jokes on the local police force. As the governor's office threatens to close his operation down, gruff-but-lovable chief Brian Cox prods his men into exposing a drug-smuggling operation before the local cops break the case. Their strongest lead is a shipment of hashish stamped with the visage of Johnny Chimpo, a heroic pro-Taliban monkey from a cheap Afghani cartoon show ("Afghanistanimation!"). The patrolmen don't allow this assignment to occupy too much of their time, and neither does the movie, which happily dispenses with the story when it can find something more enjoyable to do. A comedy that's not shy about setting a hog loose in a Winnebago, Super Troopers runs through 90 minutes of sight gags and pranks, and while some flop (the opening and closing bits are particularly dire), others nudge familiar jokes into amusingly off-kilter territory. Regrettably, no one in Broken Lizard can do funny voices like Michael Winslow, but then again, no Steve Guttenberg movie has gags as inspired as Troopers' giant cotton candy or the clandestine meeting between cops disguised as "bikers." At one of several points when the unit goes too far and almost loses its jurisdiction, one trooper pleads, "But our shenanigans are cheeky and fun." There's probably no better defense of Super Troopers than that.
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