Photo: Fox Searchlight

The original Super Troopers was marketed with the tag line, “Altered State Police.” In the sequel, released some 17 years later, there is a scene in which one of those aforementioned drug-addled cops hallucinates the words “Highway Patrol” reversing to say “Way High Patrol.” If there is any further doubt as to what kind of audience Super Troopers 2 is targeting, consider that it’s being released on 4/20. And if you find any of that alone inherently funny, this film is unquestionably for you.

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Maybe you even bought a piece of it: The follow-up—which reunites the Broken Lizard comedy troupe for another round of lighthearted police misconduct—is one of the most successful crowdfunding projects in history, an entirely fan-backed undertaking that speaks to how the first film developed its cult. Critics didn’t much care for the 2001 Super Troopers, after all, even while it overcame its minuscule budget to become a modest theatrical hit. But it absolutely flourished on home video, serendipitously released right around the time DVD players suddenly became widely affordable. Super Troopers was the precise kind of fun little goof you could pop in while you were getting stoned. Its loose, amiable sketchiness was an asset, especially in those few years before YouTube provided an endless buffet of low-stakes comedy for fucked-up people.

Nearly two decades later, however, you have so many ways you could use your high. You could watch any of the very funny films, TV shows, or viral clips of kids dancing weird that have been released over these past 17 years. You could also just watch Super Troopers again—or even just that great opening scene where the cops mess with some extremely high teens, the exact “what if…” scenario that was Broken Lizard’s original source of inspiration. There’s nothing in Super Troopers 2 that approaches the clever execution of that sequence, or that even comes close to the many other scenes from the original movie that weren’t quite as funny either. So you could just watch that clip on YouTube, and use your leftover buzz on something else.

For example, you could just watch the Super Troopers 2 trailer, which will give you most of the jokes. The plot doesn’t—and shouldn’t—really matter, but for context’s sake, here it is: Seventeen years after cracking open a drug smuggling ring and graduating from highway patrolmen to actual city cops, the five former troopers have been busted back down to civilians. But when it’s discovered that part of the nearby international border has been mapped incorrectly, and a small chunk of Quebec is actually U.S. soil, Vermont’s governor (Lynda Carter) gets the band back together to serve as interim police, and lead the charge in incorporating the disputed territory. There they must contend with a Canadian populace that resents this ugly American invasion and spar with a trio of pissed-off rival Mounties (Tyler Labine, Will Sasso, and Hayes MacArthur), while also investigating yet another drug-smuggling ring. It’s all just busy enough to fill 100 minutes, but also simple to follow if you’re high and probably also scrolling idly through Twitter.

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Photo: Fox Searchlight

There’s certainly nothing as superfluous as character development getting in the way. The troupe remains as agreeably, interchangeably one-dimensional as ever: Jay Chandrasekhar’s Thorny is still defined by his skin color. The impish brunette guy (Steve Lemme) still really loves pranks. The impish redhead guy (Paul Soter) also still loves pranks. The “rookie” (Erik Stolhanske), remains the “rookie,” for convenience’s sake. Brian Cox’s drunk, Irish captain is drunker and Irish-er than ever, still bellowing lovingly at his now-50-year-old “boys.” And Kevin Heffernan’s Farva is still an obnoxious, fart-loving oaf, a king-sized Eric Cartman who earns the distinction of being the sole Trooper whose dialogue couldn’t be said by literally any one of them. All still have their mustaches; all still like to talk about their mustaches. It’s the same old gang, just as you dimly remember them.

Their interplay likewise remains a grab-ass goof-around of metaphorical and literal ball-busting. Super Troopers 2 is barely five minutes old before one celebrity cameo knees another directly in the nuts. Another, much longer celebrity cameo—Rob Lowe, as the floppy-haired hockey-pro-turned-Quebecois mayor Guy Le Franc—playfully thumbs a man’s dangling, prosthetic dick like a Bop It. As a comely French attaché, Entourage’s Emmanuelle Chriqui gets a lot of comic mileage out of repeating the word “dickwad” in her syrupy accent. Nuts are repeatedly punched and threatened with straight razors and whirring sawmills. All the while, a subplot involving Thorny becoming addicted to female hormone pills finds him taking on “feminine” qualities—like losing his sense of direction and general “bitchiness”—as his mustache begins to fall out.

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Freud probably would have had a field day with how much of the jokes here revolve around fragile masculinity and even frailer dicks, in a film that’s often like watching kids hold combs up to their noses to mock their dads. But that’s a layer of self-awareness Super Troopers would find pretentious. It might have also been funny had the film acknowledged, even as a throwaway, how kind of pathetic and slightly unnerving it is for a bunch of 50-year-old guys to be stuck in this kind of permanent adolescence, or for us to still not know a damn thing about them. But of course, part of the fun of Super Troopers was how little it cared about being the kind of “real” movie that might bother with such things. And once again, the cast makes no attempt to hide that they’re essentially just riding one long improv suggestion, little more than an excuse to act silly in cop costumes.

But here that anarchic spirit just comes off as empty, bearing the forced mischievousness of a bunch of middle-aged dudes revisiting their glory days over a frat reunion weekend. “Feels like old times,” Chandrasekhar’s Thorny says during a callback to Super Troopers’ opening sequence—though “callback” may be too strong a word. He literally just quotes some of the dialogue, then laughs at it wistfully. Later, Jim Gaffigan returns to relive Super Troopers’ similarly meme-ified “Meow” exchange, with the characters simply discussing what happened the last time. There’s no joke there; nothing extending or building on that wordplay. Everyone just talks about how they remember that scene and how great it was. Similarly moribund references abound to “shenanigans” and liters of cola, which they also remember.

Photo: Fox Searchlight

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Meanwhile, all the fresh comedy, as it were, consists almost entirely of gags about those wacky Canadians. They like listening to Rush and Barenaked Ladies! They love pancakes and hockey! They pronounce it “soar-ry.” During a sequence where the gang gets up to its old stunt-pulling tricks while impersonating the Mounties, Chandrasekhar and Lemme even adopt an exaggerated, Monty Python honk to croak pidgin French like “Grey Poupon!” at confused tourists. Without that zany metric system to stick it to, Super Troopers 2 would be about 45 minutes long. In a way, you have to admire the sheer audacity of taking nearly two decades to deliver a sequel to your most beloved property, then devoting the bulk of it to Canada jokes that seem to have been brainstormed five minutes before the cameras rolled. And hey, whenever a punchline proves elusive, someone can just get smacked in the face.

But while its ambitions are once again affably modest, that nobody’s-watching-anyway absurdism of the original Super Troopers is here replaced by a dispiritingly inert serviceability. Since 2001, Chandrasekhar has become a reliable director of TV comedies like Community and New Girl, and he helms Super Troopers 2 like just another middling sitcom episode. Despite all those swinging dicks, it feels about as safe as one, too: Even the drugs feel like just another shoehorned callback, sparsely referenced in a character’s “Sativa” T-shirt or appearing as a joint awkwardly wedged between a character’s teeth, a Sunday morning comic strip version of stoner-dom. It all has the feeling of obligatory fan service without any genuine inspiration, as though Broken Lizard watched its crowdsourcing campaign take off in disbelief, realizing at the last minute it needed to throw something together.

Again, if you’re one of those fans-slash-producers, it’s probably not such a big deal. It’s Super Troopers 2; who gives a shit? Its very existence is a testament to lowered expectations. That said, it seems like a real missed opportunity for Broken Lizard, which has only seen diminishing returns since the original. They’re obviously capitalizing on burgeoning nostalgia (from fans who maybe don’t remember things all that clearly), but a sequel—with the ring of legacy it confers—could have also welcomed a new generation of college kids, those who were barely infants when the original came out. But they have better things to get high to now. We all do.

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