As mired in benign nostalgia as last year’s homage/parody hybrids Wet Hot American Summer and Rat Race, Jay Chandrasekhar’s dopey (in every sense) Super Troopers plays like a Police Academy sequel tooled for genre-savvy underachievers. The results are as replete with masturbation, bestiality, bodily fluids, and other gross-out tropes as any ’80s slob comedy, but Troopers is close enough in spirit to its freewheeling trash-cinema roots to be a breath of fresh air.
Written, directed, and performed by Broken Lizard, a Colgate University-bred comedy troupe that’s a sort of Monty Python for the Rolling Rock-and-Pringles set, Super Troopers centers around the antics of six state troopers based in tiny Spurbury, Vermont. Underchallenged by the crimeless stretch of highway they patrol, they pass their time perpetrating sundry mindfucks on the traffic violators they pull over. Along the way, they piss off their dyspeptic captain (Brian Cox, who clearly relishes the role), clash with the town’s inept police force, try to save the squad from budget cuts imposed by the governor (TV’s erstwhile Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter), and stumble across a mysterious marijuana-smuggling ring whose mascot is a Taliban-touting monkey. (This peripheral use of “Afghanistanimation” is presumably what kept Troopers, which was picked up by Fox Searchlight at Sundance 2001 and originally set to open last fall, out of theaters until now.)
The exposition-to-pratfalls ratio in Troopers is punishingly high: For every roadside set piece there’s at least one inert scene of plot-propelling blather. The acting, too, generally ranges from stilted to broad. But the Lizards have unmannered, irony-free fun with their tale of bored, too-smart-for-their-own-good cops. Even the blandest member (Erik Stolhanske) is never less than likable, and the laconic Chandrasekhar and shameless Kevin Heffernan (he’s the naked chubby one covered in powdered sugar) reveal a genuine gift for comic timing. Their ambitions may not amount to much more than frat-boy humor, but at the very least it’s mercifully stripped of the usual sadistic underpinnings.
Like last year’s lamentable Planet of the Apes remake, John McTiernan’s Rollerball is a movie masochist’s delight. This risible revision of Norman Jewison’s equally dumb dime-store dystopian romp from 1975 tracks the rise and fall of a popular star (Chris Klein) in the futuristic sport of the title. For this version, which appears to take place late next week, rollerball is a confusing mix of roller derby, professional wrestling, and the HOV lane of the BQE, run by a gang of greedy Russian mob-types (led by Jean Reno) bent on expanding the game beyond its Kazakhstan fan base. An unflatteringly bewigged Rebecca Romijn-Stamos provides the love interest, while LL Cool J is the stock best-buddy teammate.
Rollerball‘s troubled release history speaks volumes (it was first slated for theaters in July 2001), but its sloppy lethargy is nevertheless dumbfounding. Only perfunctorily updating the Twilight Zone-ish social commentary and adrenaline thrills of Jewison’s film, McTiernan directs like he’s killing time between real projects. It’s almost enough to make Burton’s Apes retread seem like a work of artistic ingenuity.