The jokes in the first Super Troopers are almost old enough to vote. Broken Lizard’s 2001 cult cop comedy came out at the perfect time and found the perfect audience: it was the early aughts, and gross-out humor was at its peak through shock-value sensations like Jackass and Freddy Got Fingered. While the jokes about babes and weed have aged about as well as you’d expect, there’s something admirable about the devil-may-care approach the fledgling members of Broken Lizard took with their first big hit, turning a $1.2 million movie financed by a retired investment banker into a dorm room staple.
Seventeen years and a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign later, Broken Lizard is back with a $4 million sequel to Super Troopers, bringing along – for better or worse – the same comic outrageousness and oddball absurdity that defined the first. All this means, unfortunately, is that Super Troopers 2 amounts to nothing more than a limp reunion tour where they seem to feel obligated to play the hits.
Inexplicably set a mere few months after the first Super Troopers, the sequel sees disgraced Vermont state troopers Thorny (director Jay Chandrasekhar), Foster (Paul Soter), Mac (Steve Lemme), Farva (Kevin Heffernan) and Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske) brought back into the fold by Governor Jessman (Lynda Carter) to oversee the transfer of a portion of Canadian land that turns out to actually be US territory. The troops, along with their commander Capt. O’Hagen (Brian Cox), head up to the disputed area to keep the peace, clash with the Mounties stationed there (Will Sasso, Tyler Labine, and Hayes MacArthur), and engage in more wacky pranks.
And prank they do. Like the original, Super Troopers 2 is less interested in a tight comic story than in presenting a loose series of sketches for their irreverent, irresponsible cops to engage in – whether it’s the return of Jim Gaffigan’s ‘meow’ guy or when the troops each take a separate drug from a stash of confiscated pharmaceuticals to see which one does what. The gags are highly hit or miss, but that’s a blessing in disguise: if you don’t like a joke’s premise, just wait a few minutes and another one will surely come rollicking along.
To their credit, the Troopers throw themselves into the fray with all the grateful energy of a troupe that hasn’t done a movie together in a long time. In the station house, and in their extended pranks, the Broken Lizard boys bounce well off each other, and their madcap antics sometimes skate by on the breathless dedication they bring to each gag. As it was last time around, Heffernan is a real standout in terms of sheer comic energy although the surface-level crassness of his oafish poonhound wears thin in a world where it’s a lot less “transgressive” to make gay panic jokes.
The rest of the cast are effective in fits and starts (Lemme comes the closest to stealing scenes), but they mostly exist to exhibit a childlike naivete that sits at the baseline of the film’s absurdism. Rabbit’s the biggest victim of this: he’s still the film’s ‘rookie,’ but he’s a gormless innocent who, despite his visible middle age, gets a sexy subplot with French-Canadian ingenue Genevieve Aubois (Emmanuelle Chriqui), whose character mostly exists as eye candy and a half-hearted conduit for more jokes about French accents.
Despite all this comic energy, Super Troopers 2 fails to update its comic sensibilities to something a little more modern, the actors’ charisma sinking in a sea of dead jokes. When they’re not reprising decades-old gags from the first (the aforementioned ‘meow’ gag, putting shaving cream on Rabbit), their dynamic continues to rely on the kind of sophomoric humor that went out of style back when American Pie was on its fourth direct-to-DVD sequel. A guy giving another guy mouth-to-mouth? Gross! Shaving someone’s nuts? Eww! Saying “a penis in your asshole” in a French accent? Tee-hee! It’s the kind of humor that one hopes the original film’s audience has outgrown. After all, most of them have kids now.
This is to say nothing of the sequel’s central hook – the gang’s relocation to Canada – which is just a cheap vehicle for repetitive groaners about how Canadians say ‘sore-y’ and use the metric system. Apart from one well-delivered complaint from the townspeople (“Next thing, you’ll tell us we won’t be allowed to listen to Rush! Or the Barenaked Ladies!”), virtually nothing about Super Troopers 2’s Can-upgrade is worth writing home about. Their Mountie rivals give it a good shot – one scene where they try to convince a disbelieving Sasso that Danny DeVito was, in fact, in both Taxi and Always Sunny, is a rare beam of light in a sea of non-jokes. Apart from that, the jokes that do work struggle to overcome the creakiness of the sequel’s basic premise; some poke through, most suffer.
If Super Troopers 2 had come out just a couple years after the first, it might have felt a little fresher, or at least had a more receptive audience. Weed use wasn’t as mundane (and mostly legal) as it is now, and mainstream culture wasn’t used to seeing dudes kissing as something normal. Unfortunately, while a few of the Broken Lizard guys have gone on to great careers as a result of the first movie’s success (Chandrasekhar, in particular, is a prolific comedy director), they didn’t update their act for 2018. There’s a lack of risk-taking that’s particularly disappointing, instead relying on creaky replays of the first film’s gags and a miscalculated deep dive into Canadiana kitsch. As is, Super Troopers 2 is the kind of dated comedy that doesn’t play nearly as well meowadays.