It’s 2018, ’80s nostalgia is a commodity, “Roseanne” is back on the airwaves, and Sony’s trying to revive “Men in Black.” As pop culture goes into the weeds, of course there’s a sequel to “Super Troopers.” The anarchic 2001 comedy from the Broken Lizard troupe came out of nowhere to find a home with Fox Searchlight, generate nearly 20 times its budget at the box office, and become a cult hit. The depraved antics of raunchy highway patrolmen, more keen on pranking civilians than keeping them safe, could have birthed a next-gen “Police Academy” — but Broken Lizard frontman Jay Chandrasekhar, who directed the first installment, chose to hone his penchant for crass comedy with “The Dukes of Hazard” and “Beerfest,” among others.
“Super Troopers” never became a franchise, enhancing the appeal of its single entry, and now we know why: Aside from a few cheap jokes about French-Canadians, there’s nothing left to do with these characters that hasn’t been done before.
“Super Troopers 2” feels like such a natural continuation of the original it may as well have been made 20 years ago. Unfortunately, not every dumb comedy mandates more of the same, and this crowdfunded follow-up suggests its makers are so giddy about reuniting that they never questioned whether they should do it in the first place.
In any case, the guys are back: Rambunctious Thorny (Chandrasekhar), prankster Mac (Steve Lemme), laidback Foster (Paul Soter), jubilant foulmouth Farva (Kevin Heffernan), and energetic Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske). They ended the first installment as heroes, but screwed things up: Fred Savage apparently did a ridealong with a couple of the super troopers to prepare for a role, and wound up dead.
Everyone got fired, so now they’re working a bunch of odd jobs to get by, but are still the same troublemakers, now middle aged. They’re not even bummed about it! Still, they’re more than happy to jump back into uniform when duty calls out of nowhere. If that setup resonates, “Super Troopers 2” has plenty of dumb gags to offer up.
Still, nothing can match the twisted opening sequence, which imagines a new cast of Super Troopers headed by Sean William Scott and Marlon Wayans, Jr. In the space of a few minutes, they engage in a dark showdown that involves dead bodies and cars careening off cliffs, with chaos that suggests a particularly psychotic Looney Toons cartoon. Then the dream ends, and the edgy comedy with it — we’re back to business as usual, left to contemplate what might have been.
As “Super Troopers 2” really begins, Captain John O’Hagen (the great Brian Cox, mining some mild deadpan delights from lowbrow material) recruits the original team to serve as highway patrolman for a remote Canadian border town that’s about to be annexed into the United States. The Canadians don’t want the Americans , but these guys are used to being unliked, and so begins an inane territorial showdown with pranks galore. As they suit up, one officer sums it all up: “It’s like we never left!”
The bulk of “Super Troopers 2” finds the men attempting to settle into their new gig, until they uncover some drug smuggling, a murky plot involving tacked on like a Post-it Note. They drool over a seductive Canadian officer (Emmanuelle Chriqui), whose cartoonish accent serves as a weary punchline. Attempting to channel the dopey spirit of Abbott and Costello (explicitly referenced by one character), the movie stumbles through its shaggy comedy aesthetic with mixed results.
Nevertheless, a few gags really do work on their own terms, including a prolonged section that finds Thorny and Mac pranking American drivers they pull over by pretending to converse in French. After they spew a series of random words (“Croque Madame!” “Grey Poupon!”), they settle on an inspired punchline involving the vulgar mispronunciation of four words (try saying “happiness in your household” with a French accent and you’ll get the idea). Add to that their abrupt discovery of adolescent kids joy-riding while hopped up on pills, and running spats with Canadian troops who look just like them, and “Super Troopers 2” certainly makes something out of its quest to mold the idiocy into earnest wit, if only in fits and starts.
None of that makes up for the casual sexism of its characters, the wearisome Canadian stereotypes that feel like watered-down bits from “Trailer Park Boys,” and the general impression of a movie assembled from two decades of random ideas. There’s a certain futility to resurrecting this abandoned franchise so many years down the line, when the concept of comically dysfunctional officers has been explored in so many superior variations, from “Reno 911” to the excellent “Brooklyn 99.”
Sure, Broken Lizard staked its own claim to a tradition of inept lawmen stretching back to the silent era with the Keystone Cops. Still, at a moment when the image of crude police officers shirking their responsibilities is especially loaded in American culture, “Super Troopers 2” suffers a fate worse than ineptitude; it’s tone deaf.
“Super Troopers 2” opens theatrically on April 20.