Toward the end of this movie, a character explains the difference between the pranks he and his friends play and those devised by a colleague. “Our shenanigans are cheeky and fun. His are cruel and tragic.” It’s a relief to hear that the people behind this movie recognize that distinction in theory, even if they are not always able to do so in practice.
“Super Troopers” feels like the kind of movie five college buddies who didn’t want to go to law school would dream up after a weeklong marathon of smoking dope and watching John Landis movies. In fact, that’s pretty much how it came about. Five recent Colgate graduates who created a comedy group called Broken Lizard wrote and star in it and one of them directed it. The result is a sort of “Animal House” crossed with Cheech and Chong with a touch of the 70’s Erik Estrada television show “ChiPs.” It is a slob comedy story of the rivalry between a group of Vermont highway patrolmen and the local police. Budget cuts are looming, so it escalates from taunts and practical jokes to a struggle over turf and then to a struggle for survival.
The members of Broken Lizard play the troupers, whose idea of “cheeky” hijinks includes making bets about how many times one of them can use the word “meow” while giving a motorist a speeding ticket or donning a hippie wig and racing the other troupers to the Canadian border.
In classic college fashion, drugs, alcohol, humiliation, and sex provide most of the subjects for humor. For example, it is supposed to be funny when a college student swallows two bags of marijuana and mushrooms, a character told to create a distraction concocts an elaborate prop to make it look like he is having sex with a bear, a character is hosed down naked and subjected to a fake delousing done with powdered sugar, and a German couple in a stolen Porsche offer sexual favors to get out of trouble — an offer that is happily accepted.
This is in the middle range for bad taste comedies, in both the bad taste and comedy categories. There are a lot of gross jokes that are cheerfully politically incorrect (even one about television cartoons made in Afganistan -“Afganimation”) but not as offensive as some of what is out there. They are not as stupid as some of what we’ve seen in recent movies, but they are not terrifically funny either. It falls somewhere between “American Pie” and Tom Green.
No one in Broken Lizard has what anyone might deem star quality — in those uniforms, they look more like they are auditioning for a local franchise for the Village People than like anyone who might know how to hold a radar gun on a speeding 18-wheeler. But director Jay Chandrasekhar and one or two of the others clearly have fun on screen and it occasionally reaches the audience.
Parents should know that the movie is mostly sex, alcohol, and drug humor, including depiction of masturbation, exhibitionism, bestiality and implied group sex. An unmarried couple has a child to whom both are clearly devoted. There are several depictions of a vulgar drawing of a cartoon character. Some law enforcement officials are shown as corrupt or stupid. Others, both male and female, black and white, are shown as high-spirited but loyal and honest. One strength of the movie is its positive portrayal of inter-racial relationships.
Families who see this movie should talk about what it might feel like to fear losing a job you like and how friendships develop among people who work together.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Caddyshack and the Police Academy and Naked Gun movies.