Monday, December 14, 2009

Trailer Park :: I'm All Highway!

The small town rivalry between a garrison of State Troopers and the local police comes to a head when State budget woes s
ays one of them has to go. And to try and one up each other, these warring factions compete to solve a murder and bust up a drug smuggling ring to prove who's more worthy.

I'm ashamed to admit but when I first saw the trailer for Super Troopers back in 2001 I thought it looked irredeemably stupid. However, upon my second viewing of the Super Troopers trailer, several things cracked a big smile on my face -- especially that bit with the stainless steel nut cup. Then, after a third viewing, I finally went and rented the damn thing, and while watching it, I proceeded to laugh. A lot. And, more often than not, laughed really hard.

Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske first teamed up at Colgate College in 1989, and honed their sketch comedy skills in a student film, The Tinfoil Monkey Agenda, and that cemented their course in feature film making. Taking the name Broken Lizard, the group's first effort, Puddle Cruiser, focused its comedic eye on college life, and proved such a big hit on their college tour more investors came forward to help finance their next feature, Super Troopers.

The overall storyline is basically irrelevant as the film is more of a throwback to the comedies of my youth, like Caddyshack and Strange Brew, where the plot exists solely to string together several comedic sketches, vignettes and scenes that showcases the cast, who all perform beautifully. The Troopers, Thorny (Chandrasekhar), Mac (Lemme) and Foster (Soter), are more concerned with personal antics like tormenting speeders, hazing their rookie, Rabbit (Stolhanske), and playing pranks on the surly dope, Farva (Heffernan), then solving any real crimes. At the eye of this comedic storm, and the rock that holds the film together, is Brian Cox's Captain O'Hagen, who tries but mostly fails to keep them in line. His men's antics are lewd, crude and [nearing the borderline of] socially unacceptable, but the characters lack the mean-spiritedness that permeates most frat-boy-fueled comedies these days. I don't know. All the humor in comedy lately seems to be grounded in bodily fluids, demeaning others, and a general meanness that spawned a new genre that someone else so rightfully dubbed [-- but I wished I had, dammit]: When bad things happen to Ben Stiller's privates. It's a cheap laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. These films are funny, sure; they just aren't that funny in my book.

When Super Troopers premiered to rave reviews at The Sundance Film Festival, it was quickly snatched up by Fox Searchlight Pictures for general release. It had a modest box office return but would go on to be a sleeper hit on home video, where it soon exploded into one of the most quotable comedies of the Aughts. And the studio was so impressed they signed Broken Lizard to a multi-picture deal, leading to the release of Club Dread, which, when I saw it on the day it opened, made me wonder if these bunch of comedians realized they were making the most effective giallo in years? Alas, Club Dread fizzled at the box office, and I'll admit that Beefest was disappointing at first encounter but seems to be improving with age -- and is worth the price of a rental for the frog gag alone. Which brings us to the recently released Slammin' Salmon, whose trailer, frankly, made me retreat to the nearest corner with my Super Troopers DVD tightly clasped to my chest to weep silently for awhile.

But then again, Super Troopers took me by surprise because I wasn't expecting that much from it, either so I'll still hold out some hope. In all of the Broken Lizard's films, the humor is far from sophisticated but the troupe proves adept at the right balance between absurd, witty, sublime, and clever, and yes, rolling around in the gutter. And like those other famous comedies of my youth, I can watch this film, again and again; laugh at the same bits, again and again, forever; and not get tired of it one bit; epitomized by one of my favorite lines that needs to go down as the greatest piece of dialogue in the history of cinema:

"Uh ... Excuse me. Bear ... Bear-fucker?
Do You need assistance?"

Super Troopers (2001) Broken Lizard Industries :: Cataland Films :: Jersey Shore :: Árpád Productions :: Fox Searchlight Pictures / EP: Peter E. Lengyel / P: Richard Perello / AP: Robert Barocci, Amy Minda Cohen, Adam Mazer, William Rotko, Kevin Weiss / D: Jay Chandrasekhar / W: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Erik Stolhanske, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter / C: Joaquín Baca-Asay / E: Jay Chandrasekhar, Jacob Craycroft, Kevin Heffernan / M: 38. Special / S: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Erik Stolhanske, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Marisa Coughlan, Daniel von Bargen, Brian Cox


Several tips said...

Good blog.

The Man-Cave said...

Great review of a movie I love so dearly. Like you, the trailers really turned me off. After nagging from some friends, I finally watched it and have been a BL fan since.

If I had to list my favorite parts, I'd basically be spoiling the entire movie.

W.B. Kelso said...

Thanks to you both.

Huge BL fan, too, Geof. Sadly, will probably have to wait for the DVD release to see the Slammin' Salmon. Just saw the Red Band trailer for that, and the improvement was exponential over the GR.

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