Attention all you Super Trooperheads, you Trooperphiles, you maple-syrup–guzzling guys with your #MeowToo hashtags at the ready – your prayers, for better or worse, have finally been answered and crowd-funded. Chances are you either squealed with delight upon the news of a second Super Troopers flick, before strapping on your bulletproof cup and threatening to pistol-whip the next guy that says “shenanigans” … or you shrugged. They call ’em cult movies for a reason, and the 2001 tale by the Broken Lizard troupe of Vermont highway patrolmen-behaving-badly is really a you’re-in-or-you’re-out phenomenon. You either discovered the comedy courtesy of a buddy and turned the film’s punchlines and nut-punches into a shared secret handshake, or you knew almost nothing about it. You either find concepts like Afghanistanimation and seeing how many times you can sneak a cat-noise into a routine traffic stop insanely hilarious or you do not.
So yes, if the idea of spending more time with the alpha officer Thorny (director Jay Chandrasekhar), the “mini Burt Reynolds” Mac (Steve Lemme), the record-holding meower Foster (Paul Soter), the rookie Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske) and the blustery douchebag Farva (Kevin Heffernan) makes you giddy, then have at this long-awaited sequel. After an opening sequence involving a cop-rock group called Cracklin’ Bacon, a tour-bus shoot-out, American Pie‘s Stifler and Damon Wayans Jr., we find out that our troopers are now working in construction and landscaping. They’ve long since lost their jobs – something about a ride-along with Fred Savage gone awry. Then the gents are summoned by good ol’ Captain O’Hagan (Brian Cox) to a cabin in the woods. A small town in Canada has, thanks to a redrawing of border maps, now become part of the United States. If they want their jobs back, they can have them so long as they keep the locals in line. “I love Canada!” one of them says. “Ha! Good one!” replies O’Hagan.
Oh, there’s plenty of digs on our neighbors up yonder, what with their politeness and outrageous French accents and all. There’s a former hockey star turned mayor named Guy LeFranc (Rob Lowe, having fun) who says things like “Great Tim Horton’s Ghost!” and a cultural attaché (Emmanuelle Chriqui) who flirts and cracks wise. There are Three Stoogish mounties, including one played with Curly-level verve by actual modern-day Three Stooge Will Sasso. As for the Americans, we get razzed for refusing to acknowledge the metric system and for being fat and imperialistic and obnoxiously entitled, which, y’know, fair enough. Someone gets kicked in the crotch within the first five minutes, and beaned in the head with a soccer ball within the first 20. Farva, characteristically, acts like a dick. A bear knocks over a Port-a-Potty. Farva acts like a dick some more.
This would be the part where we tell you more about the plot, which involves a smuggling ring, kind of, but hey, whatever. Or where we’d detail more of the jokes to give you a sense of how the humor informs the story, but most of them fizzle as much on the page as they do onscreen. (You could say that a running gag about Thorny becoming moody and irrational because he’s taken female hormones wears out its welcome, but that would assume it was welcome in the first place.) The Lizards have said they wanted to avoid a greatest-hits reprise of the first film’s gags – which doesn’t mean that there isn’t a callback to the “Meow” bit or that there isn’t a Canadian take-off on Farva’s favorite chain restaurant, called Chicanery’s.
But the problem here isn’t excessive pandering; the sheer existence of this second movie is already 100-percent fan service. It’s that it doesn’t give you much beyond a very subjective view of what these guys find hilarious. The direction could be described as “maybe point a camera this way?” The acting can be summarized as variations of “ain’t we stinkers.” The editing, so crucial to comedy, feels allergic to anything close to timing. They wanted to make a sequel that stood on its own. Credit them, at least, for making one that falls flat on its own.
It makes sense that cops are huge fans of the original, since so much of it revolved around guys with guns and uniforms fucking with passersby and each other out of sheer boredom. That’s not a dig: You understand how they might relate to whiling away long hours of tedium via pranks and [ahem] shenanigans, a sensation that Troopers 2 nails to a tee. (Any resemblance between what happens here in the name of funny business and headlines involving too many real police encounters is completely coincidental. Your ability to laugh at the sight of people abusing power, however, will still be tested.) It’s also not surprising that college-age stoners helped turn this into a genuine fan-favorite and a grassroots cause célèbre, given that both Troopers movies are less narratives than loosely collected scenes that bump into each other and work best when you’re blazed.
That is a bit of a dig, and while you can describe tons of comedy classics that way – what’s the “plot” of Animal House? Caddyshack? – there’s a sense of comic forward momentum and inventiveness in those films that’s lacking here. It’s just bros with badges, acting bro-y. Super Troopers 2 isn’t going to win over new converts. It’s a new set of in-jokes for old fans, a snickering preaching to the choir. Everyone else will be just as mystified by the aggressiveness and niche appeal of this one as the last one, feel just as left out in the cold. Broken Lizard has given the cult what they wanted, and they owe the rest of us nothing. In that respect, the movie delivers on both counts.