I come bearing good news: a sequel has been made that bests the original! Unfortunately, it’s Super Troopers 2, and just about any movie could have been better than the 2001 original, a catalogue of half-baked stoner cop pranks. After close to two decades of studio inaction, the film was greenlit after raising over four million dollars from an Indiegogo campaign. The people have spoken, and they mostly got what they wanted.
After an introduction involving a runaway tour bus and the gang having won America’s Got Talent, we find the former police officers from the first film in their new profession — construction. (They lost their old jobs after a mysterious ride along with the actor Fred Savage that went horribly wrong.) The guys are about as productive as builders as they were as cops, although the hierarchy has changed a bit — Farva (Kevin Heffernan), the perennial target of fat jokes, is now the foreman.
Their new routine is shaken up by a supremely improbable development: the border with Canada has apparently been incorrectly drawn for hundreds of years, and a small town in Quebec is soon going to be part of the U.S. For some unexplained reason, Vermont’s governor (somehow still played by Lynda Carter) decides to give the super troopers their jobs back as an interim police force during the town’s transition to American law. There’s a predictable amount of tension with the Mounties they’re replacing (Will Sasso, Hayes MacArthur, and Tyler Labine), and even the broad strokes of the film’s plot read like the original’s, merely updated for 2018. Instead of a stash of marijuana, the troopers discover hidden crates full of pills and assault rifles, and there’s even a new romantic interest for one of the cops that mirrors the first film’s plot diversions.
The Broken Lizard gang have learned some important lessons along the way, even if it took multiple forgettable features to get here.
Most people with any interest in Super Troopers 2 will be fans of the original film. I come at it from a different perspective, having watched the original film for the first time only a few hours before seeing the new one. It’s safe to say that few films have been the beneficiaries of so much unearned nostalgia. The original is remarkable for how grossly it misjudges its comedy; when the characters in a movie laugh at something, it tends not to actually be that funny. The first Super Troopers derives most of its comedy from the pranks that the officers pull on unsuspecting motorists and each other — they were the original insufferable YouTubers before the current batch of narcissists and psychopaths were even speaking in full sentences. Viewers raised on Atlanta and Broad City will be shocked to learn that Super Troopers was once considered good stoner comedy.
The Broken Lizard gang have learned some important lessons along the way, even if it took multiple forgettable features to get here. (Did anyone actually program Club Dread in their Bill Paxton memorial marathons?) Since their comedic chops are suspect, they’ve surrounded themselves with more talented comedic actors. The three Mounties are a reliable font of humor; they even get a few scenes all on their own, something that couldn’t have happened in the first film. Rob Lowe also has a nice comedic turn as the town’s mayor, who also happens to run an all-gender bordello. Lowe proved he was a great comedic actor with his years on Parks and Recreation, but he excels when parachuting in for small roles like he did in Behind the Candelabra and Thank You for Smoking, and here as well. Most surprising, however, is that the esteemed Brian Cox didn’t have anything better to do than return for this sequel. It’s for everyone’s benefit though, as he commits more fully than his earlier phoned-in performance.
Director Jay Chandrasekhar still plays the nominal leader of the troopers. He’s not a particularly skilled comic actor, but some of his smugness has worn away by now, and he commits more fully to the gags. He doesn’t act like he’s always in on the joke, which makes it far funnier. Heffernan, who played the group doofus, has a similar arc here. His performance was insufferable in the first Super Troopers, which erred by thinking that a white guy with anger issues and an inferiority complex is hilarious, but here he’s more absurd and easygoing (and less like a mass shooter in the making). Still, for every joke that lands, there are three that don’t, most of which are about the metric system. Canadian jokes have been passé for decades, but the film still gets in a few good ones, especially when it cedes the stage to Canadians like Sasso or The Kids in the Hall’s Bruce McCulloch.
If there’s a single trait that Super Troopers 2 shares with the original film, it’s a lack of ambition. The filmmakers are content to just repeat what worked in the original, and abandon what wasn’t successful. Broken Lizard haven’t made an especially accomplished film, nor have they even proven their abilities as a comedy troupe, but they’ve at least made a better movie that’s reasonably funny. That’s worth something for an underachiever.