2002 was a confusing time for all of us. Bush was President, Nickleback topped the charts, and… I’m just kidding. No one needs that much effort for this introduction. Look, Super Troopers was a film that I loved. I was in high school and me and my alt rock bandmates probably rewatched that DVD upwards of 50 times. Did we all chug syrup? Yes. Did I lose because of my thin little bird lips? Probably. Just establishing for the outset here that when I come to the table to talk Broken Lizard comedies, I do so from a place of unending love. Yeah, I absolutely own Club Dread on both DVD and Blu-Ray (I think?) and find it to be a delight. Yeah, I absolutely did once see most of The Slammin’ Salmon: a film that has been referred to elsewhere as “a film.” Yeah, I saw Beerfest and didn’t mention how much I did not enjoy it because I AM ONE OF THE BROS HELL YEAH.
But Super Troopers also represents a kind of comedy that existed in a bubble. There’s a Grandma’s Boy era of idiot comedy that somehow excelled thanks to its mere existence either within, or just to the side of, the studio system. There’s a few years here where these titles dominated the brains of teenages like me because they were, in many clearly defined ways, our first experience with non-studio system cinema. There is nothing, technically, that divides these films from, say, Little Nicky—a film for which I have no friends that feel any direct connection. But the Broken Lizard guys goofin’ on Vermont (a state I have never visited) or making cat sounds at Jim Gaffigan (a person who deserves to have cat sounds made at him) will forever enjoy free rent in the comedy center of my lizard brain.
I, uh, recognize that this is just a personal experience and that teen idiot cinema is of course scaling to the age of the teen idiot in question. My dad has films like Up The Academy that come off like foreign torture footage to me, but that he adores because it was a big stupid thing that he saw with friends. I’m sure kids younger than me are real into a film, or YouTube thing, that fills a comparable spot.
What we do have to discuss is the impending sequel to Super Troopers, which opens on 4/20. Do you get it? It’s 4/20. The Marijuana Number. That’s also the date. You get it?
Super Troopers 2 features a dispute between American police officers (the titular Super Troopers) and a Canadian border situation. The time is either very appropriate or very inappropriate to make a film about how Americans are jack-asses and terrible neighbors. I can’t weigh in on that one without having seen it. What I can weigh in on is a trailer filled with Canadians who offer, unprompted, that they want to fuck a moose. Or, get this, a Tim Hortons joke. It’s the territory of jokes that Kevin Smith has already mined for two decades and I’m not sure how we’re supposed to take this.
Ostensibly, I am the direct target market for this film. But the trailer for the film shows not a return to form for Broken Lizard, but how comedy has regressed over the last sixteen years. I can only hope (despite what I feel to be true) that this might be the result of a craptastic trailer edit. But I also didn’t see a joke that I would consider funny. For comparison’s sake, I went back to revisit the original Fox Searchlight trailer for the first film: Sure, there’s plenty of stupid visual gags, but there’s also setups for much better jokes, some bizarre set pieces and reactions, and overall it just comes off as the sort of thing that seems more deserving of 90 minutes of my time.
The bigger tragedy here is knowing that Broken Lizard might be deliberately dumbing down, in hopes of making a much bigger cultural impact today than they did in 2002. Which sucks, because they have talent across the board, and Jay Chandrasekhar’s directing resume since the first film has been a murderer’s row of TV episodes.
Comedy sequels rarely work, anyway. Look at another cult comedy from the early ‘00s that had a sequel this decade. Anchorman had a much larger cult following and much bigger names attached, but its sequel didn’t come close to recapturing the magic of the original. Did anyone, anywhere find that film worth your time, or even worth the time of the people making it? And I say this, again, as a near apologist for the film. It had some genuinely interesting ideas (buried) in its runtime regarding the rise of 24 hour news coverage and “fake news” and how that makes the world a worse place. But the comedy fell flat thanks to a combination of a high budget, impossible expectations, and the original film being an almost accidental success of the editing department. If Will Ferrell calling in a decade of favors couldn’t overcome the Stupid Comedy Sequel difficult second album problem, what hope does the bad cops movie have?
2018 is a different time, and not just politically or in terms of what we expect from cinema. It’s a time where me and my friends are asking of the entertainment that they consume: “Is this necessary?” Is this saying something? Is this saying anything? What impact does it have on my life?” I don’t think that’s as much about growing up as it is about a wave of how the world functions right now, and a mix of having a million options for what you can do with your time (and, uh, also what is happening with the world today). None of this is to say that films (especially deliberately dumb comedies) need to be capital-a Art, but is rehashing ideas like this necessary? In the case of Super Troopers and its sequel, some things are best left to the time and place that made them.
Brock Wilbur is a writer and comedian from Los Angeles who lives with his wife Vivian Kane and their cat, Cat. He is the co-author (with Nathan Rabin) of the forthcoming book Postal for the Boss Fight Books series.