6.5 out of 10
Jay Chandrasekhar as Senior Trooper Arcot “Thorny” Ramathorn
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
Super Troopers 2 Review:
Nothing is ever as good as the first time, not very often anyway. That’s not a dig, it’s just the way things are, especially in the act of creation. Even for the most experienced artist who knows exactly what effect they’re after and how to achieve it, there is no replacement for inspiration. In its place we can instead expect well-crafted scenes, competent performances and even potential elements of excitement. And that is just fine, unless your bar is ‘better than the original.’ In that case, you’re screwed.
Although it’s been about 16 years since the original Super Troopers surprised everyone with its virtuosic immaturity and imminently quotable lines, only a few years have passed for Broken Lizards’ most famous creation. That’s more than enough time for them to be fired from the Spurberry Police force after accidentally killing Fred Savage and spread out to seek gainful employment in manly jobs like lumberjack and construction worker. It’s also more than enough time for them to realize they hate manly jobs and jump at the chance to return to duty when Governor Jessman (Carter) decides she needs some expendable men for boring, pointless duty.
Like a lot of sequel creators, Chandrasekhar and the Broken Lizard team (who again share joint writing credit) have taken a ‘if it ain’t broke…’ approach to their long (lllooonnnnggg….) awaited return to the Vermont State Highway Patrol. All of the character descriptions and relationships from the first film are kept firmly in place, letting the actors slip back into them like a pair of comfortable loafers. For some of the cast, especially frozen in amber Farva (Heffernan) and Mac (Lemme), it’s easy enough to believe in, but Stolhanske’s Rabbit now looks older than everyone else while still having to play the young, naïve rookie. The gags are still decent (built primarily off the solid bones of the first film, still one of the best structured comedies of the 2000s), but there’s been no effort to inform them by the passing of years. It’s like that Monkees reunion movie where they acted like the show hadn’t been off the air for 30 years and just picked right back up – that was weird, too.
Which isn’t to say Super Troopers 2 rests on its laurels. While there are a few callbacks (including a decently ingenious return to the ‘meow’ bit again with Jim Gaffigan), the group clearly understands the potential harm of leaning too heavily into that sort of thing, spending more time looking for new jokes than digging up old ones. And the ones they come up with are mostly pretty good, particularly thanks to some very game additions to the cast, particularly Rob Lowe’s aggressively Quebecois mayor. But a lot of the new material does show signs of a talented writers searching for inspiration and coming up a bit short. This is never so clear as the handful of times Super Troopers 2 returns to old bits, which more than anything else remind us nothing in this new film is remotely as funny as the first one.
There’s too much good in it to call it bad, even if much of that is borrowed. In particular Heffernan’s Farva (easily is greatest creation as a comic) will probably always be funny, and Heffernan himself steals every scene he appears in. Part of that is because the rest of the cast rarely gets the chance (especially Soter who vanishes into the background a lot), but also Super Troopers 2 is VERY plot heavy. Part of the joys of the original was the amount of time it spent on the guys’ individual lives and the relentless boredom of their jobs which the larger plot slowly intruded on. Super Troopers 2 is all about the mission to police the Canadian town which is about to become part of Vermont (and OF COURSE the smuggling operation they find there) and not much else, leaving the Broken Lizards crew to try and enliven the material as opposed to living in it.
The Police Academy 2 to the first film’s Police Academy, Super Troopers 2 takes what worked the first time discards the detritus and tries to build on the foundation, with mixed success. The Broken Lizard crew are still inherently funny people who know how to escalate a good gag, though you have to be open to their particular style of humor for it to work at all. But that is a far different thing creating something as aggressively quotable as the first film and too often they remind us of it even as they make us laugh again.