Monday, December 5, 2011

Super Troopers

I'm fairly picky when it comes to comedies.  There are many reasons for that (discriminating taste, enough intelligence to see punchlines coming, a love of context-based humor, and utter snobbery), but I am usually willing to give a movie the benefit of the doubt and just rip it a new asshole once it's over.  I was definitely prepared to do that the first time I saw Super Troopers.  When a friend brought the DVD over to watch, everyone in the room groaned.  To be fair, that particular buddy has some pretty terrible taste and the television trailer for the movie looked wretched.  I've seen funnier commercials for the ASPCA.  Since my friends and I were open-minded (and we relished the possibility of revoking our friend's movie recommendation privileges), we chose to watch Super Troopers, despite our misgivings.  Good move, young Brian and Friends.

As with most comedies, the plot is pretty basic.  The Vermont State Troopers based in the Canadian border town of Spurbury are on the verge of being shut down, with their responsibilities (and budget) probably going to the jerks in the Spurbury Police Department.  That's not terribly surprising, since these State Troopers spend their time at work fishing, joking, masturbating, and smoking evidence from drug busts.  These amateur cops accidentally stumble into a murder/drug investigation, but can they solve the crime?  And will that be enough to make them look moderately competent?
A: Nope

No, the plot isn't anything special.  What the plot of Super Troopers does is allow the sketch comedy group behind the film, Broken Lizard, many episodic opportunities to crack wise.  Honestly, I usually don't like movies based on sketch comedy because the plots are awful and they are usually filled with a single joke spread over ninety minutes.  **cough, cough, anything originating from SNL in the last eighteen years, cough cough** What I appreciate most about Super Troopers is how well each sketch in the movie is framed.  The officers pull over a civilian and more or less ask each other what pranks they are going to pull this time.
Oddly enough, this is funny with context
It's a simple way to make a movie, but it's damned effective.  My favorite thing about Super Troopers is that the humor is generated within each sketch --- meaning that it isn't random or pop-culture based --- and that helps it stay rewarding even with (especially with) repeat viewings.

Nobody in the cast was going to win an Oscar for Super Troopers, but I thought everyone was pretty good.  The standout actor in this film is definitely Kevin Heffernan as Officer Farva; he has the best lines and perfectly embodies an annoying guy you like to laugh at.  The rest of Broken Lizard all turned in solid performances with their own highlights; Jay Chandrasekhar's ethnic and swinger jokes were great, Erik Stolhanske's rookie was made for hazing, Steve Lemme's Mac was consistently funny (and has both mine and my dad's favorite scenes), and Paul Soter managed to not suck, despite being the character with a romantic subplot.  Brian Cox added some much-needed legitimacy to the film, and he showed off that he can be pretty funny when he wants to be, too.  Daniel von Bargen was solid as the hard-ass Spurberry Police Chief.  Marisa Coughlan might have been in the film to add a romantic interest for Soter, but she pulled off a convincingly strong and likable female character in a movie where that was light years beyond what was required of her.  You might recognize a few other supporting cast members, too.  Jim Gaffigan, before he was famous, had a bit part, as did Lynda Carter (although hers was an "after she was famous" bit part).
Philippe Brenninkmeyer, Joey Kern, and that bastard who married Christina Hendricks, Geoffrey Arend, all have minor (but memorable) roles, too.
I simply cannot believe this jackass married a hottie

What makes Super Troopers such a funny movie?  Honestly, I credit Jay Chandrasekhar for editing (and, I suppose, for directing) the crap out of the film.   Every scene has several jokes in it, and most of them are throwaway gags that don't detract from the story.  The weakest parts of the film are the ones that propel the plot forward, but even those have many fun moments.  The best parts are the scenes where the team pulls over drivers.  Maybe it is the perfect cop mustaches.
Maybe it's the material.  Maybe it is because the humor feels original and is usually hard to predict.  Whatever the reasons, I truly appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that went into the post-production on this movie, because it is a lean, mean comedy machine.

After I saw Super Troopers in college, I went home and rented the movie to show off to my family.  Well, not all my family --- mainly my father, who is a very funny man and helped shape my sense of humor.  His immediate reaction to my suggestion was the same as mine: the commercials made it look like crap.  I managed to talk him into watching the first scene, and from there he was hooked.  And when I say "hooked," I mean "having trouble breathing because he was crying from laughter."  To give you an idea of how funny my father found this movie, he decided to try and get my mother (a very generous and nice woman, although not nearly as funny as us male folks) interested in the movie by showing her this scene:
How high off laughter was my dad to think that his wife --- who isn't a big fan of stupid humor --- would watch a scene with a bullet-proof cup and the line "good enough to fuck your mother" and think to herself "Perhaps this is a film I should spend some more time with."  My dad is an idiot.

Is Super Troopers a masterpiece?  Absolutely not.  It's not very clever, the story is weak, and the characters are not very sympathetic.  I absolutely love this movie, though.  It is stupid humor at its best, and varied enough to make you want to watch it again --- and you are rewarded if you do, because the script is jam-packed with half-audible lines and throwaway jokes that you didn't catch the first time through.  This is easily the funniest movie I have seen in the last decade.

For the record, my favorite moment in the movie is when Mac tells Rando to sit down in the diner.  The timing of the syrup bottle is so perfect, it gives me the giggles every time.

1 comment:

  1. One of the signs of a classic comedy (apart from laughing at repeated views) is the ability to quote the movie over the years. And boy is this one quotable. Amongst friends, a well timed "Littering and... littering and..." or "A liter of cola," can bring laughs (or a follow-up line) a decade after the first viewing.