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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Super Troopers
Super Troopers
Fox // R // August 6, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 10, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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Over the past few months, I've been inundated with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of excruciatingly bad Austin Powers promos and ads with Dana Carvey chanting "turtle, turtle, turtle". It's truly beyond my comprehension that someone could see a thirty second sport of Mike Myers ceaselessly muttering "mole" and decide that equates to eight dollars worth of entertainment. The lack of any real comedic competition probably makes me appreciate movies like Super Troopers more than I may have otherwise. The brainchild of New York-based comedy troupe Broken Lizard, Super Troopers snuck in under the radar this past February. Though Puddle Cruiser, the troupe's 1996 feature film debut, had yet to be picked up for release, the members of Broken Lizard marched forward, undaunted. Super Troopers was produced for the modest sum of $1.2 million and without the benefit of studio backing. Fox Searchlight gobbled up the rights at Sundance for almost triple the cost of production, and their promotional push was enough to net a respectable $18.5 million at the box office. A TV series is reportedly waiting in the wings, and then there is, of course, the inevitable DVD release.

Super Troopers isn't the sort of film anyone watches for the plot, which is basically just an excuse to string 103 minutes worth of gags together in some moderately cohesive fashion. Still, I feel obligated to adhere to my rigid review format, so the story goes something like this -- five Vermont state troopers are facing the unpleasant prospect of being scattered around the state as a budget-conscious governor seeks out fat to trim. The troopers don't have a whole heck of a lot to do, preferring to wile away the hours by screwing with the minds of those unfortunate enough to tear through the sleepy hamlet of Spurbury. As the days of goofy word games and freaking out stoners seem to come to a close, a murder and substantial drug bust appear to offer some glimmer of hope, possibly proving that their tiny post is worthwhile. The local gloryhound cops try to steal the credit, not to mention their budget, and...yeah, wackiness ensues.

I laughed harder and more frequently while watching Super Troopers than I have during any other movie I've seen all year. That may sound like typical online reviewer hyperbole, but I actually took the time to pore through my DVD collection, wrack my mind trying to remember what I bought and when, and rank the comedies accordingly. Okay, on second thought, maybe UHF comes out on top. But as far as movies I first saw this year, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I won't backstep any further. The jokes don't come in the same machine-gun succession as ZAZ-inspired comedies, but gags connect frequently enough that there's not the sort of Gulf O' Laughlessness so prevalent in lesser flicks.

My movie-going is governed by a small set of unwritten rules. Well, they were unwritten, but here's the gist:
  1. Don't watch anything starring David Arquette, Carrot Top, or anyone who's shilled collect calls on national television.
  2. Even a passing glimpse of a single penis is one penis too many.
Yup, Kevin Heffernan breaks rule number two with a quick shot of Mr. Bilbo. Heffernan plays a dimwitted, quick-tempered trooper on the ropes following an embarrassing (and, until the end credits, unexplained) run-in with a group of unruly kids on a school bus. His character accounts for quite a few of the laughs in the film, ranging from a savage assault on a sarcastic fast food cashier to a less-than-subtle attempt at joining in on the highway hijinks. ("Chicken f&#@er!") He and the other members of Broken Lizard -- Erik Stolhanske, Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, and Paul Soter -- are naturals on screen, and Chandrasekhar proves just as capable in his turn behind the camera. Thanks to Chandrasekhar and talented cinematographer JoaquĆ­n Baca-Asay, Super Troopers doesn't look like a cheap movie, even though its budget barely covers the cost of chocolate mints on the pillows of the cast and crew for most Hollywood productions. Marisa Coughlan's performance as underappreciated cop Ursula (a.k.a. "the requisite love interest") almost redeems her presence in Freddy Got Fingered and Teaching Mrs. Tingle, and the typically great Brian Cox makes for a much better straightman than I would've expected. Lynda Carter puts in the obligatory celebrity cameo as Vermont's governor, and brilliant stand-up comic Jim Gaffigan also chimes in with a brief, meowmorable appearance.

Reviews for Super Troopers seemed to be rather mixed when it first trotted into theaters. Critics either loved it or loathed it, with not a whole lot of that lovely gray area in between. I obviously fall pretty squarely in the "loved it" column. Why I found the slapstick and raunchy humor of Super Troopers to be so appealing when similar efforts fell flat is destined to remain one of life's great mystery. I rarely laugh out loud when watching movies, especially if I give 'em a shot by myself, but Super Troopers had me howling several times. Think of it as Police Academy for the new millenium, only funny.

Video: Super Troopers may have been shot on the cheap, but its scarcely seven-figure budget isn't reflected in the quality of this 1.85:1-ish anamorphic widescreen presentation. The level of detail is at times striking, particularly in a number of the extreme close-ups of the troopers, though contrast does seem the slightest bit murky in a handful of shots. Certain areas of high detail, such as shingles on rooftops, also have a tendency to shimmer somewhat. This doesn't present much of a distraction and is relatively infrequent. Colors are bold and attractive, and the deeply green blades of grass visible in so many of the exterior shots in particular almost leap off the screen. Whatever edge haloing or film grain may have been present managed to escape my incessant nitpicking, and as is invariably the case for such a recent release, speckling and the like are practically non-existent. Super Troopers is a very nice looking disc, and I'd do somersaults if all low-budget efforts could look as good as this.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is equally spiffy. As is not terribly uncommon for a comedy, the majority of the audio is located towards the front, with the center delivering the bulk of the dialogue. The climatic confrontation gives the surround channels a bit more of a workout than is typically expected from the genre outside of the expected ambiance and soundtrack reinforcement. The music present throughout offers a healthy dollop of bass, giving my subwoofer a chance to rumble a bit. Fox has also tacked on English closed captioning, subtitles in both English and Spanish, and dubs in Spanish (2.0 surround) and French (Dolby Digital 5.1).

Supplements: The five members of Broken Lizard are split up into two groups, each providing separate feature-length commentary tracks. As is not entirely unexpected considering that the participants are all members of a comedy troupe, both tracks are very entertaining, almost overflowing with their extraordinarily dry sense of humor. Erik Stolhanske and Jay Chandrasekhar are the first up to bat. Since Chandrasekhar directed the film as well as wearing the hats of co-star and co-writer, it doesn't come as an overwhelming shock that he carries a lot of the discussion, blending quite a few technical notes in with the quips. The other three Lizards turn up in the second commentary, which is more anecdotal than the other track and duplicates a fair amount of information. Still, it's kept lively enough that it's still fun and well worth a listen. The commentaries are available through the 'Language Selection' menu, not 'Special Features', for whatever reason.

A six-minute featurette is centered around extended clips from the movie and incorporates new footage of the cast, who stay in character and chat about the bits shown. The "Road Trip Newswrap" runs just under two minutes and takes a look at the Lizards' promotion of the of the movie. Around half of it has the cast working security on the 20th Century Fox lot, and the remainder takes place on a college campus. By this point, sadly, they'd all shaved their moustaches.

There are sixteen minutes of outtakes, largely just alternate and extended takes of scenes from the movie with not really much in the way of the screw-ups generally associated with that particular term. Among the highlights are the full Afghanistanimation Johnny Chimpo video and a shot of Kevin Heffernan inducing vomiting. There are also fourteen sets of deleted and extended scenes, and it's pretty clear why they were trimmed from the final cut. There aren't really any laughs here, and the alternate ending in particular isn't nearly as clever or funny as the one that made it into theaters. All of the above are presented in letterboxed widescreen and also feature two commentary tracks, divvied up in the same way as the film.

Rounding out the extras are non-anamorphic trailers for Super Troopers and Kung Pow: Enter The Fist.

Conclusion: Super Troopers is an above-average comedy, sporting a deranged, off-kilter sense of humor that offers more laughs than pretty much anything I've seen in months. Its release on DVD is rather nice as well, and the amount of supplemental material makes the $18-20 asking price more than palatable. Highly Recommended.
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