In some ways, I am both the most and least appropriate person to review Super Troopers 2, the crowdfunded sequel that is finally arriving in theaters (on 4/20, natch) a mere 17 years after the original. Not only am I a Vermonter, but my husband is one of the 50,000+ loyal fans who donated to the film’s Indiegogo campaign, helping raise $4.4 million to get this movie made. For his $225 contribution, we got tickets to an advance screening/ Q&A earlier this month in downtown Burlington, and just yesterday a box of additional promo perks for the film arrived on our doorstep. I may or may not be wearing the freebie pair of shiny aviators that came in the box right now, in fact.
(OK I wasn’t, but I am now. Marriage means I get to keep the cute shit, right?)
But here’s the catch: I attended that advance screening with almost no memory of the original in my mind. I mean, I’m sure I saw Super Troopers at some point, probably during college with a bunch of people who would look at me to gauge how realistic all those Highway Patrol antics were. And I remember my overwhelming response being a sort of knowing nod and a shrug. Not because the movie wasn’t funny, but because it didn’t seem like a stretch. It kinda sorta WAS realistic. The thing about growing up in Vermont is that you intimately know the lengths people will go to alleviate their boredom. You’ve done all that dumb shit, or similar dumb shit — the chugging contests, the made-up games for your own amusement, the pranks. There’s very little to do in Vermont, so you make your own fun — often at the expense of others and/or their property. And, as a teenager, you probably have also witnessed first hand just how bored the cops are, too. It was a revelation the first time I went to a real city and realized that cops have better things to do than hang out at 24-hour gas stations, waiting to bust stoners who have a bad case of the munchies at 2 am. What I’m saying is that, when it came out, the comedy in Super Troopers didn’t feel novel to me. It felt kinda like my life on any given weekend, only with more mustaches.
So I went to the advance screening with fresh eyes, and… I laughed. Quite a bit, actually. Then I went back and rewatched the original film afterward, to fill in the blanks. And here’s what I can say: If you loved the original, you’ll like the sequel too. It’s loaded with callbacks to the funniest jokes from the first film. The core Broken Lizard troupe — Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Erik Stolhanske, and Paul Soter — are all back, alongside Brian Cox as Captain O’Hagan and Lynda Carter as Vermont’s Governor Jessman. The plot this time, involving a border dispute with Canada that pushes Vermont’s territory north, necessitating the establishment of a new Highway Patrol office in the formerly French Canadian area, is both timely and timeless. The obvious jokes at Canada’s expense quickly subside into jokes at America’s expense, turning eventually into simple statements of Canada’s superiority that, well, aren’t really jokes at all. But just like the first film, the “plot” is mostly beside the point. It’s window dressing. Super Troopers 2, like its predecessor, is ultimately a collection of vignettes, sketches, and riffs. And its success or failure will depend on how those land for you. Some were expectedly juvenile, or in questionable taste. Chandrasekhar’s Thorny, for example, gets hooked on a female libido enhancer called “Flova Scotia” that alters him physically and mentally. Basically, he becomes that stereotype of the overemotional wife, and the joke wears thin pretty quickly
And then some bits, like an extended debate between three Mounties (played by Will Sasso, Tyler Labine, and Hayes MacArthur) about whether or not Danny DeVito is the same guy from Taxi AND It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, are pure gold. That premise could be lifted and recreated at an improv theater, or fleshed out as an SNL sketch, and be right at home. The generosity of the Broken Lizard guys is that they wrote it, and gave it to other actors to play out rather than holding onto it for themselves.
The fact that there even is a Super Troopers 2 for us to talk about is an interesting quirk of the industry all on its own. While the first one became a cult phenomenon over the years, it didn’t make the studio a whole lot of money when it was originally released. So it wasn’t exactly something Fox Searchlight was champing at the bit to produce a sequel of — and because they own the rights, Broken Lizard couldn’t make it without them. Raising the funds via Indiegogo gave the troupe the freedom to make the film the way they wanted to, and seeing the rapid response from the fans proved to Fox that the audience for a sequel did exist, if they released it. The result is a movie that feels like a throwback in a lot of ways — frozen in amber, trapped in the era that produced the first one, for better or for worse. And yet, there are hints that the intervening years have improved the product. The pacing is better (the guys simply know how to put a movie together a bit more smoothly). And this time around, they could attract a higher caliber of supporting actor. Rob Lowe dons a ridiculous French Canadian accent as the former hockey star turned mayor, Guy LeFranc. Seann William Scott and Damon Wayans Jr. have an extended cameo early on in the film. Even Jim Gaffigan returns to reprise his role from the original. But don’t let those big names fool you. Super Troopers 2 is exactly the film you think it is. It owes its existence to those legions of fans who have made Super Troopers a mainstay on cable and in dorm rooms for 17 years, and I don’t think it will let those people down. The question, ultimately, is whether it can find success outside of that cult following. But maybe it doesn’t need to. Maybe the fact that it even got made is the real success story.
P.S.: If you do go see the movie, and hear the joke about people throwing tires on roofs in Rutland? The thing to know is that Rutland is a place in Vermont that ends up being the butt of our jokes. It’s like Vermont’s New Jersey. The tire thing, I dunno where that came from. But during the post-screening Q&A, someone asked the Broken Lizard guys why they included a jab at Rutland in the movie, since it’s the most authentically Vermont thing in the film. We were all thinking someone must have told them it would be a great insidery gag, but no — turns out they had their own organically weird experience with the town. Apparently, a couple of them were in Rutland for some reason and stopped at a restaurant. A waitress walked up to take their order and asked how they’re doing. They say, “Fine. How’re you?”
Her response? “Sweaty.” Look, I realize that tells you nothing about the nature of Rutland, but also it kind of perfectly does.