Friday, February 15, 2002

”Super Troopers,” a farce about five would-be wacky musketeers who patrol a stretch of highway in Vermont, is anything but super.
The second feature of a comedy troupe called Broken Lizard, formed during its members’ undergraduate days at Colgate University, the movie seems nostalgic for the not-quite-halcyon period of the “Police Academy” series.
“Troopers,” shot on a modest budget with Poughkeepsie, N.Y., as its base of operations, seems to function most effectively when the title characters pull over motorists for harassment pranks that can backfire. For example, the first episode targets a trio of joy-riding, pot-hoarding high school boys (Andre Vippolis, Joey Kern and Geoffrey Arend). Having detected something fishy, Jay Chandrasekhar’s Thorny and Steve Lemme’s Mac proceed to mess with the minds of the panic-stricken, self-incriminating brats.
A subsequent episode with the same basic pretext is calculated to ensnare the arresting officers because they encounter a Eurotrash German couple (Philippe Brenninkmeyer and Maria Tornberg) who exist to swing and aren’t very particular about their choice of partners. Thorny is accompanied on this occasion by Erik Stolhanske’s Rabbit, who quickly lives up to his nickname by consenting to trifle with Mrs. Eurotrash on the hood of her car. Meanwhile, hubby is pestering Thorny by trying to tickle him in the crotch with an oversize feather.
The main plot line is devoted to vindicating the troopers as drug busters in an ongoing rivalry with municipal cops in Spurbury, the small town that serves as their mutual headquarters. Rabbit gets an outrageous interlude pretending to fornicate with a bear. Thorny is revealed to be a family man, with a steady consort (Amy De Lucia) and a little boy, but the reassuring potential in this setup is torpedoed when Thorny and mate are discovered in a romp with the German libertines.
Kevin Heffernan’s Farva is the raging bull of the group. Indeed, he’s such a hothead that his weary but patient boss, Capt. O’Hagan (Brian Cox), has banished him to desk duty before the movie begins. Paul Soter’s Foster, a more sophisticated version of Rabbit, is permitted to charm a city cop named Ursula, played by the cheerful Marisa Coughlan. Their scenes together get the movie within cruising distance of wistful appeal, at least until the knee-jerk lewd tendencies kick in.
The Colgate upstarts collaborated on the screenplay, and Mr. Chandrasekhar served as director. Both aspects of the presentation seem to suffer from inexperience, which might be remedied, and staleness, which might be the kiss of death.
Maybe the pretext is poorly contrived to show the principals to their very best advantage. It’s not difficult to imagine most of them becoming fixtures in sitcom ensembles or capable supporting players in movie comedies. What “Super Troopers” fails to do is convince you that the team is prepared to make its own material stand up to prolonged scrutiny.
TITLE: “Super Troopers”
RATING: R (Sustained slapstick vulgarity, occasional profanity and nudity, allusions to drugs and facetious simulations of sexual dalliance)
CREDITS: Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. Written by Mr. Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske.
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

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