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Cop Out

Give Super Troopers a little credit. It's slightly better than its abysmal trailer, which manages to intersperse the least-funny scenes from the film with a moronic rave from an anonymous poster at the Ain't It Cool News Website. And it may appeal to some: The screening audience was laughing hard. Then again, some people also praised last year's Wet Hot American Summer, a similar attempt at reviving '80s comedy genres. Both are akin in that you can tell they're supposed to be funny, and their concepts could be amusing in the right hands. But if they can't make you laugh, there's no point. The occasional chortle is there, but not enough to justify paying money or to keep you from heading to the theater next door screening Rollerball. You get the sense that perhaps, in Bizarro World, your goateed evil double is busting a gut over the film, but, sadly, you're forced to watch it in this world, where morons don't make you laugh.

The film was written by and stars comedy troupe Broken Lizard -- Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske. Never heard of them? There's a reason for that: Judging by this film, only one of them (Heffernan) actually merits a chuckle. The premise appears to be that the quintet decided it would be uproarious to play cop for a while, so we get a feature about state troopers along the Vermont-Canada border who spend their time playing pranks on unsuspecting motorists and feuding with the local police over who's better. When the word comes down that budget cuts will force either the locals or the state fuzz out of business, the rival squads must compete to solve a drug bust that's somehow connected to an Afghan cartoon about a masturbating monkey wearing a boater. (Don't ask.)

Each cop nicely fits a simple stereotype. There's the basically normal one (Chandrasekhar), the crazy undercover guy (Soter), the tough guy (Lemme), the stupid fat guy (Heffernan), and the wimpish rookie (Stolhanske). There's also the aging drunk captain, played by Brian Cox, who deserves better than lines about his turds turning purple and smelling like rainbow sherbet. Throw into the mix a hot young number from the local squad (Marisa Coughlin) for whom Stolhanske instantly falls and you sort of have a movie. It's technically a well-made film: Chandrasekhar, who directed, gives it the look of a studio feature on a sizably smaller budget. It's just the script that betrays its cast. When dialogue like "We show you da funny" is delivered like it's supposed to be amusing, you realize the movie's showing you something else entirely.

Heffernan is the only one filled with the kind of manic energy the film needs. His dialogue isn't great; in fact, most of his jokes are deliberately lame but are uttered with such intensity and conviction that they go from humorless back to humorous (as when he angrily responds to a fast-food clerk's supersize-combo hard sell with "Want me to punchisize your face?"). He also gets more mileage from gulping down beers and bazooka-barfing than any other stupid fat guy in recent memory, and he gamely does a nude scene that requires him to be hosed down and covered in powdered sugar.

Movies by comedy troupes are an iffy proposition to begin with; the Three Stooges had their share of cinematic skeletons in the closet, while the Kids in the Hall's film was a brilliant mess that didn't click with the public. Kevin Smith has something of an ensemble going, but their shtick is rapidly becoming tiresome. So maybe films aren't the right forum for Broken Lizard. Or maybe they just weren't that amusing to begin with.

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Luke Y. Thompson
Contact: Luke Y. Thompson

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