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Super Troopers

(2002) ** R
103 min. Fox Searchlight. Director: Jay Chandrasekhar. Cast: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske.

Purveyors of stupid comedy must walk a fine line: they must be unashamed, unconcerned with naysayers, and uninhibited. In order to make a good stupid comedy, they must also not, themselves, be stupid. The jury (so to speak) is still out on previously obscure comedy troupe Broken Lizard, but their law-enforcement comedy Super Troopers is a surprisingly engaging entry in the stupid comedy sweepstakes, and sure to become a minor cult favorite.

The plot and spirit of Super Troopers, such as they are, are little different from stupid-comedy predecessors Animal House and Police Academy. Endearing anarchists flout authority. The twist is that the anarchists are also the authority figures. The frat-house rivalry, then, pits the Super (state) Troopers against the town police force, a suspect bunch of pissy jerks. The only good apple among the local cops is romantic interest Marisa Coughlin, but her forbidden romance with a Trooper hero isn't exactly Romeo and Juliet.

For those keeping score, Broken Lizard escaped from Colgate University, made a film called Puddle Cruiser (apparently, I'm not alone in having missed this one, as the boys took it straight to their target audience: college students), and languished until making the first sale at Sundance 2001 with this little puppy. Broken Lizard is comprised of director-star Jay Chandrasekhar, Erik Stolhanske, Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, and Paul Soter, and all are amusing, if uninspiring performers. Judging only by this film, they rank near the bottom of the sketch comedy troupe pile. Nevertheless, Chandrasekhar and his crew deserve credit for their anarchic streak and try-anything attitude.

Competently directed on an indie-film low budget, Super Troopers tears out at a refreshingly reckless pace, then gradually settles into a law-abiding speed. The extended sketch which opens the film is the film's funniest by far, with the troopers establishing their penchant for messing with the heads of the apparently ubiquitous Vermont doper population. After that, Troopers trots out plenty of familiar gross-out comedy material, but just often enough, delivers the sort of bizarre, left-field joke that inspires good will in an era of predominantly brain-dead and talentless Hollywood comedy. It helps that Chandrasekhar somehow attracted old hands Daniel von Bargen (Hollywood's "it" authority figure) and Brian Cox as his rival, the Troopers' boss. Cox, whose presence might seem to belie his recent career surge, has little of interest to do, but he chews the scenery with admirable gusto nevertheless.

In the absence of any smart film comedy, filmgoers can do worse than this energetic outing destined for infinite cable airings. They can also await the next Broken Lizard outing--if not with bated breath, at least with curiosity.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio

Street date: 12/9/2008

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

With a sequel to Super Troopers in the pipeline, the jury is no longer out on Broken Lizard: they take pride in the stupidity of their comedy, but have won an affectionate audience for it. Fox's Blu-ray release of Super Troopers is a testament to the Broken Lizard cult. It's a phenomenal disc that preserves all previous bonus features while adding impressive new ones. A lot of effort has gone into this disc, beginning with brilliant picture quality. There are a few specks here and there, but otherwise it's a quite astonishing transfer that, if anything, looks better (in my memory, anyway) than it did on the big screen.

As on the original DVD, you'll find a commentary by Jay Chandrasekhar and Eric Stolhanske and a commentary by Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme and Paul Soter, but the real news here is a brand-new Blu-ray exclusive PiP commentary that places the participants in a row along the bottom of the screen. Participants are Chandresekhar, Heffernan, Lemme, Stolhanske, and Soter along with a surprising number of special guests: Andre Vippolis, Joey Kern, & Geoffrey Arend ("the college kids" in the opening sequence);  Michael Weaver & James Grace ("local cops" Smy and Rando); Philippe Brenninkmeyer ("German Man"); Charlie Finn ("Dimpus Burger Guy"). This commentary has some creative interludes that make it easily the most elaborate commentary I've ever seen: at various points, for example, the Broken Lizard guys insert their 2008 selves into the movie.

Also a Blu-ray exclusive, Stupor Troopers: The Drinking Game is an elaborate way to get stupider while watching the movie (be responsible, couch potatoes).

"Outtakes and Extended Scenes" (41:20 with "Play All" option, SD), including an Alternate Ending, come with optional commentary by Chandrasekhar and Stolhanske. There's an EPK "Featurette" (6:08, SD) with in-character interviews. "Road Trip News Wrap" (1:58) shows footage of Broken Lizard's personal appearance tour for the film. and you get two Theatrical Trailers. Broken Lizard fans, eat your hearts out.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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