By: Steve Pulaski
After being significantly underwhelmed by Anchorman 2 and downright disgusted by the belated sequels to Joe Dirt and Zoolander, I'm happy (maybe not proud) to admit that I laughed longer and louder at Super Troopers 2 than I did the first film. Perhaps it's my ongoing infatuation with Club Dread coupled with the belief that it will take the comedy event of the season from the Broken Lizard troupe to top that horror-comedy marvel that made the original Super Troopers a marginally lukewarm experience for me. Maybe it's the film's ubiquitous presence on Comedy Central and the incessantly quoted "meow" line that didn't resonate as well. Whatever hang-up I could've had was dismissed after the first few comic beats of this commendably funny sequel.
With the recent stockpile of atrocious comedies coming long after their successful predecessors, the likes of which "successful" mostly because of their popularity on syndicated networks following their theatrical release, I admit it's theoretically hard to get excited for Super Troopers 2, let alone believe what I do in that it's better than its junior. It's been a stunning 17 years since the original film grossed a serviceable $23 million in theaters, and since then, Broken Lizard's oft unremarkable box office success hasn't made them the most popular name in the comic stratosphere. Their last starring effort was nearly a decade ago with The Slammin' Salmon, and prior to that, Beerfest in 2006.
For someone like me, who has found the team's wild-card, group-centered comedy charming since early adolescence, seeing Super Troopers 2 work as more than a gratuitous cash-grab is somewhat heartwarming. More importantly, it will come as a relief to the 50,000 individuals who backed the flick via its IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign in 2015, which raised $4.4 million in record-time. The film genuinely feels like it was comprised by a group of men who have been itching to get back into their trooper garb and give their adoring fans something to embrace after years of uncertainty and false production leads. Under all of this pressure, the Lizard quintet somehow found a way to make it work.
Jay Chandrasekhar (who doubles as director), Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske, and Kevin Heffernan reprise their roles as Thorny, Foster, Mac, Rabbit, and Rod, respectively, former officers of the law now working as petty construction workers. The boys who once belonged to the Vermont Highway Patrol are given a second chance to prove their worth when they're informed by the Governor (Lynda Carter) that there's been a dispute between a small Canadian town just over the state's border that, geographically speaking, should be part of U.S. soil. This launches a dispute between the "sorey" Canadians, whose town is run by Guy Le Franc (Rob Lowe), a former Quebec hockey player, and the reappointed officers, who are sniffing out a potential crime-ring involving speed, steroids, female hormone pills, and AK-48s (not a typo). Led by Captain O'Hagen (Brian Cox), the five officers go to work out of their humble office in the dead-center of Canadian wilderness.
The most persistent trouble the American law enforcement face are the Canadian Mounties, played by Hayes MacArthur (Angie Tribeca), Will Sasso (the Farrelly brothers' Three Stooges), and Tyler Labine (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil), who make life hell for the witless saps. Also popping up are Emmanuelle Chriqui, who schmoozes Rabbit, Jim Gaffigan in a fun cameo, and Seann William Scott and Damon Wayans Jr. in the unpredictable opening sequence.
What sets Super Troopers 2 apart from its predecessor — and other Broken Lizard efforts — is the presence of these now veteran comedians. These men have worked with one another for almost three decades and are beyond comfortable with one another. Normally, this could be seen as a hindrance that would lessen the impact of the characters' dynamics on-screen due to their inability to play characters. But the Broken Lizard boys are themselves, and there's no point in disguising it. Better yet, it's what makes Chandrasekhar so affable and laudably dead-pan in his performance, and Heffernan so frequently hilarious, channeling some subtle Chris Farley notes in his fast-talking, roly poly ways. Lemme and Stolhanske provide great dualistic comic weapons, changing between manic and laidback between scenes to show solid range as performers, and Soter throws caution in some memorable instances of physical and verbal humor.
Even when the troupe goes for larger comic setups and broader antics, they are always capped off by some interior jokes or brief references to their previous films (take note of Mac's ringtone very early in the film). The writing itself is never beholden to a large instance of the film, such as a bear eating meat in the middle of the police station, but rather, also focused on utilizing the comic strengths of all involved. The key to Super Troopers 2 success is it's never too reliant on one large sequence; if one joke doesn't land, there's another quickly coming, and it makes up for the sometimes tiresome bout of Canadian-centric humor in the script.
Super Troopers 2 is a win for a group that needed to do the difficult work of making both their studio and fan investors proud. By that notion, and with a premise that's doubly difficult to replicate the charm and zeal of its original source material, especially 17 years later, it's only more satisfying to see this film be as rock-solid as it is. I'd tell other sequels emerging after being stuck in development hell for years to listen, but I'm still not convinced they could meet this bar, let alone succeed it.