‘Super Troopers 2’ is worth the wait
Directed by: Jay Chandrasekhar
Written by: Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Kevin Heffernan
Starring: Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Kevin Heffernan, Brian Cox, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Rob Lowe, Will Sasso, and Lynda Carter
“Super Troopers 2” – More often than not, comedy sequels are not as funny as the originals, and one can point to many, many examples. This is not a universal law, like the inevitability of death, taxes and hitting every red light when running late, but the list of films is lengthy.
“Airplane II: The Sequel” (1982), “Ghostbusters II” (1989), “Grumpier Old Men” (1995), “Meet the Fockers” (2004), and “The Hangover Part II” (2011) are just a few that semi-infamously stand out.
Regardless of the script, movie audiences can still give these films a chance, because they offer golden opportunities to experience additional adventures of beloved celluloid characters, like Ted Striker, Dr. Peter Venkman, Max Goldman, John Gustafson, Jack Byrnes, and Alan, respectively. Then again, if the actors – who play these characters – don’t return for a second appearance, disaster can strike. “Caddyshack II” (1988) – minus Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray - is one of the best-known fiascos.
“Super Troopers 2” is no fiasco, and in fact, quite the opposite. Seventeen years after “Super Troopers” (2001), these five slacker Vermont Highway Patrol officers – Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar), Mac (Steve Lemme), Foster (Paul Soter), Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske), and Farva (Kevin Heffernan) – and their misadventures are back with “Super Troopers 2”. Yes, the gang, including Captain O’Hagan (Brian Cox), Governor Jessman (Lynda Carter), and Ursula (Marisa Coughlan), return to the big screen, and yes, their sequel is funnier than the first movie.
Even though almost two decades have come and gone in real time, the film takes place only a few years after “Super Troopers”. We discover that the boys have collectively found a very different career after a “forced retirement”…due to an unfortunate off-screen incident. Their time away from law enforcement, however, is short-lived, because Governor Jessman asks them to help manage a border dispute between Vermont and the Province of Quebec.
Naturally, the five and Chief O’Hagan clash with a rival police force, the Canadian Mounties, and comedic mayhem and mischief ensues.
Since the Troopers enjoy a built-in audience, Chandrasekhar’s, Lemme’s, Soter’s, Stolhanske’s, and Heffernan’s challenge was to write a funny script while also balancing the familiar quirks of their characters without the gags becoming overly repetitive. Four of the five officers – Thorny, Mac, Foster, and Rabbit – still banter like close high school buddies, who look for the next prank or bout with foolishness.
The fifth, Farva, continues his lone irritant persona, like a porcupine on speed.
His rapid-fire – but sometimes strangely innocent – social commentary pokes and pricks everyone in his path, and he delivers the most quotable lines in both movies. As much as Farva aggravates his colleagues, his chief and Canadians in general, Heffernan’s seminal character and his associated adolescent buffoonery are comedic joys to watch. When he is not on-screen, you might find yourself anticipating and hoping for Farva’s latest analysis on dating, Canadian culture and liters of cola. Chandrasekhar – who also directed the film – includes enough of Heffernan’s antics without making it “The Farva Show”. Trooper fans will leave the theatre more than satisfied with Farvaisms and not overwhelmed by them. What is that old saying? Leave them wanting more.
Speaking of more, the U.S. vs. Canada ethos entanglement truly is the new and key element that delivers a freshness to the sequel. Complaints about the metric system, pronunciation of basic words, debates about universal healthcare, and obsessions with hockey are constant sources for humor. The five Vermont Highway Patrol officers plus Chief O’Hagan dive headfirst into the lowbrow fun, but they absolutely meet their matches with a local Canadian mayor (Rob Lowe) and three Mounties hilariously played by Hayes MacArthur, Tyler Labine and Will Sasso.
The laughs are not exclusively reserved for American law enforcement, as the Canadian Mounties deliver equal amounts of funny barbs and insults towards the Troopers. In the first film, the rival police officers from Spurbury were a faceless collection of jerks, sans Ursula (Coughlan), of course. Here, the Mounties are petulant, but also deliver entertaining one liners, including a bit about Danny DeVito that will leave television aficionados very amused.
No, “Super Troopers 2” will not win any Academy Awards. It will not please your grandparents and has no aims to split the atom, but that’s not the intention here. The Broken Lizard comedy troupe (Chandrasekhar, Lemme, Foster, Stolhanske, and Heffernan) – who met in college in the 1980s – stay within their lanes and deliver a sidesplitting adventure for their fans and/or anyone who enjoys movie experiences like the “Jackass” films, “Dumb and Dumber” (1994) and “Airplane” (1980). This film is the best effort from the Broken Lizard team yet, with “Beerfest” (2006) and the original “Super Troopers” (2001) rounding out the top three. Although Heffernan’s Farva does mow down the audience with the biggest belly laughs, all of the guys certainly get their moments in the sun too.
These old friends are also friendly faces for their fans (full disclosure: including this film critic), and “Super Trooper 2” offers an aforementioned golden opportunity to see your favorite Vermont Highway Patrol officers wrapped in 1 hour and 40 minutes of American and Canadian flags and beautiful absurdity. This movie is worth the wait, but here’s hoping that “Super Troopers 3” arrives sooner than 2035. No pressure.
Jeff – a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle – has penned film reviews since 2008 and graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Follow Jeff and the Phoenix Film Festival on Twitter @MitchFilmCritic and @PhoenixFilmFest, respectively.