See It Instead: Super Troopers 2.
We gear up for the return of the Super Troopers by going over the catalogue of Broken Lizard’s comedies.
It’s been nearly a decade since the team at Broken Lizard has been on the big screen. A popular kickstarter campaign demonstrated that fans were willing to pony up to see more comedy from Jay Chandrasekhar and his crew. While we wait to get our hands on the latest adventure from the maple syprup and prank loving state troopers from Vermont, we thought it was a good time to go over the Broken Lizard back catalogue.
While not their first film, Broken Lizard exploded on to the comedy scene with 2001’s Super Troopers. On 3 million dollar budget the film scored 23 million dollars in ticket sales. While ti was never a critical darling, it quickly became a cult favorite and set up a nearly ten year run of oddball comedies. Some of them, like Beerfest, were inspired lunacy that turned a profit. Others, like Club Dread, wound up being costly missteps. We take the good with the bad here and hopefully point you towards the Broken Lizard comedies you should see instead.
Super Troopers 2 (2018).
Having had their barracks at the Vermont State Police shuttered, the Super Troopers are apparently out of a gig. Their old commander gets the boys back together with a chance at redeeming their spotty record of law enforcement: they are to head to a small border town in Canada that is actually supposed to be part of the United State. There, they’ll take over for the Royal Mounted Police and help to naturalize the citizens – many of whom don’t particularly care to become ex-Canadians. During the process they’ll try to stop a smuggling ring and harass some more motorists…and try to avoid getting canned again.
Super Troopers is Broken Lizards golden project. The characters are memorable and the situations are hilarious. Enough fans had faith in the return of the troopers to pledge money in advance, and their dedication pays off this week. Hopefully we’ll see a return to glory for Jeff, Thorny, Mac, Rabbit and Farva. Till then, lets see what else the Lizards came up with.
Super Troopers (2001).
Rabbit is the newest recruit to the Spurbury Vermont State Police. He quickly realizes that the four other members of the patrol are…different. While preventing very little crime, they spend most of their time pulling pranks on motorists and the citizenry. Trouble starts brewing when budget cuts mean that the troopers must compete against the local police to make the most arrests or get disbanded. As chance would have it, a major drug trafficking operation seems to have moved into Spurbury, giving the State Police a chance to prove they’ve got what it takes. Or at least fake it long enough to stay on the job.
Super Troopers blends silly stoner humor with an excellent eye for satire and wacky characters. It’s astounding how personable and recognizable each trooper is despite having next to zero in the way of backstory. Honestly, these guys are defined by their character quirks and the style of mayhem they cause, which happens to work perfectly for the type of comedy on display. Like Meatballs, Stripes, and Animal House, Super Troopers is creative comic anarchy that more than justifies its cult classic status.
Club Dread (2004).
Coconut Pete is an aging hippie who owns a tropical resort where drugs, alcohol and sex are the main draws. Staffing this pleasure island is a crew of misfits and castaways who barely keep the place running. Things take a turn for the worst when staff starts to go missing and cryptic song lyrics from Coconut Pete’s liquor soaked library start getting scrawled in blood around the place. It seems that somebody has it in for the staff of the resort, and the remaining workers are going to have to keep their wits about them until the next party boat arrives to rescue them.
Club Dread was not a financial or critical success, for good reason. While die hard fans of Broken Lizard may find some humor here and there, the film suffers for not having any of the key elements of Super Troopers. There is only the faintest attempt at satirizing the tropes of the genre. (If you want a spoof of the 80’s murder movie then check out the much funnier Dude Bro Party Massacre 3.) The characters are either lazy stock characters, unremarkable, or actively dis-likable. The kills are uninspired and fail to skewer the source material. It feels like the film made a deal to remove one joke from the script for every instance of a topless girl, so get ready for more nipples than laughs. Overall, Club Dread is a dud that you’d be better off leaving marooned on a deserted island.
Two brothers attempt to honor their grandfather’s dying wishes by returning his ashes to Germany during Oktoberfest. Once there, the two are sucked into a secret beer drinking competition called Beerfest. The two are quickly humiliated by the hard drinking German team, who add insult to injury by revealing that their grandfather stole a sacred beer recipe before fleeing to America and is hated by his German relatives. Vowing revenge, the brothers return home to assemble the greatest American team of binge drinkers and beer-pongers the world has ever seen to avenge their grandfather and achieve alcoholic glory.
Beerfest is hands down my favorite Broken Lizard movie. It may not be quite as clever as Super Troopers, but it makes up for this by the brute force of turning beer games into a sport epic. Once again, the Lizards match a silly concept treated and broad humor with characters who are gloriously whacked out. The film is aided by a great supporting cast of talented actors like Donald Sutherland, Will Forte, and one of my favorite actors in a surprising comedic turn, Jurgen Prochnow (Das Boot). Both celebrating and satirizing the keg party comedy tradition, Beerfest proves it’s the best of the wurst.
The Slammin’ Salmon (2009).
Cleon “Slammin'” Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan) was a fearsome heavyweight champ who opened a fancy restaurant upon retiring. His eclectic staff live in fear of Cleon and his mercurial temperament, but make the kind of money that allows them to follow their dreams of going to medical school, joining the ballet, or making a break into Hollywood. One day Cleon forces the staff to compete to see who can sell the most in a single shift. The waiters think they are trying to win a spa trip, but in reality they’re saving the champ’s bacon: he made an unwise bet with some Yakuza and now owes a large sum of money that must be repaid in 24 hours.
The Slammin’ Salmon is hot and cold. There is a mix of stock characters (some of which border on offensive) but also some characters you can really relate to and enjoy. The film does satirize the restaurant business and related movies, but is nowhere near as on point as comedies like Waiting. Often the film goes for the easy joke that makes it seem like the Broken Lizard team only has a passing familiarity with the travails of restaurant work. The first hour is a bit tedious, but once the competition is in full swing the antics become much more energetic and fun. Slammin’ Salmon is not the best or worst that the team has produced, and has just enough humor to take the edge off your appetite for heartier Broken Lizard fare.
From their humble beginnings in sketch comedy at Colgate College (just up the road from my alma mater at Hamilton) through stints doing stand up in New York City, Broken Lizard distilled their comedy into a recognizable and unique style. Their film careers have had ups and downs, but you can always spot the distinctive aspects of their projects. They come across as a latter day National Lampoon for a different generation of crazy college students. I hope that Super Troopers 2 is a return to glory for the group…if only so I can get the long teased at sequel to Beerfest that they’ve promised will follow if Troopers’ sequel goes well!