Long-overdue comedy sequels always have an air of desperation about them. You picture an addict on a corner begging, “C’mon, man, I’ll do ‘All right meow’ for 10 bucks!” Or an annoyed musician desperately trying to move on while the concert audience shrieks “Play bear f*cker!”
In the case of Broken Lizard, it seems more like the latter, the demand for repetition coming more from the audience than the performers. After Super Troopers became a cult favorite, the Colgate University sketch comedy group reunited for Club Dread, Beerfest, and The Slammin’ Salmon, to increasingly diminishing returns. Yet even as their new stuff fizzled, the internet wouldn’t let go of Super Troopers. From 2009 up until about a year ago, all one had to do was put “Super Troopers” and “sequel” in a headline, no matter how thin the justification (“Steve Lemme muttered something that sounded distinctly like ‘sequel’ through a mouthful of burrito!”), and it would automatically be your most-trafficked post that month. So clearly did it demonstrate a built-in audience (“built-in audience” being the magic words for any studio exec), Super Troopers 2 was fake news that inevitably became real.
All of which is to say that I didn’t expect much from Super Troopers 2. We tend to view the original (which I watched as much as anyone) through rose-tinted glasses. It has a perfectly executed opening sequence (“You are freakin out, man”) followed by a hit-and-miss patchwork. It was largely panned (30-odd percent on RottenTomatoes). And yet, as Roger Ebert wrote, accurately, “it’s the kind of movie that makes you want to like it.” It proved that you don’t have to be perfect to be memorable.
For about the first half hour of the sequel, I was shocked at how well it was working. For whatever cult status they’ve achieved and for as many times as they’ve tried to recapture the magic, Broken Lizard was never quite mainstream. Nowadays we have a lot of hip comedy, we have a lot of niche comedy, we have a lot of awkward comedy, and we have a lot of comedy that attempts to be smart and insightful. As always, we have a lot of comedy about LA and Brooklyn (blame market forces, there are only so many places a comedian can go to make money). We even have comedy that allegedly attempts to serve the Trump voter. What we don’t have is a lot of proudly dumb, decidedly unhip comedy. Broken Lizard doesn’t fit easily into many boxes. Aging frat dudes who love puns? And how many other people are making comedy about Vermont?
Broken Lizard’s inherent strangeness at first makes Super Troopers 2 feel downright refreshing. They seem to aim for a Beavis and Butt-Head-esque “heh heh” reaction that doesn’t ask too much of the viewer. And dammit, I’ve missed dumb comedy. There’s a distinct difference between well-done dumb comedy and bad comedy that makes you feel dumber, and Broken Lizard seem to have a decent grasp of what that is.