Cops `n' comedy. Not a cracking combination. Sequels have left the genre flint-dry, with Rush Hour the only memorable recent outing for a template dragged through the mud by the Police Academy series and then shat on by Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop III, Metro, Showtime - - the man should be locked up).
Fortunately for a genre that's spent several years in the slammer, the Broken Lizard comedy troupe is here to bust it out. Five easygoing guys who met at university in New York, this pack of jokers have produced a swift, funny flick that manages to blend various styles of laugh-grabbing (visual gags, wordplay, gross-out) to create an appealing whole.
The plot - really just a hook for the gags - is a wacky yet sweet-natured tale of Vermont state troopers who just want to lark about. Then a budget-crunch forces the governor to slash funds, meaning they have to fight for survival against a pack of polished, professional plods. There's a smuggling ring to be broken, local corruption to be fought and a murder case to be solved - none of which prevents a little romance, courtesy of perky cop-gal Marisa Coughlan.
It's not always a perfect mixture. The predictable narrative stretches a little thin in places, allowing the movie's roots in sketch work to show through, while there are times when verbal sparring would have been preferable to Adam Sandler-style slapstick. But it's all delivered at such a pace that the lesser moments are soon spinning away in the slipstream, while the cast speed on to more rib-troubling laughs.
For now, the name Broken Lizard garners blank stares and scratched heads in Blighty. But these five comedians have the potential to be every bit as cultishly popular as Canada's Kids In The Hall and - whisper it - our own Monty Python team. It goes without saying that they're still a way from that dizzy level of quality mirth pangs, but Super Troopers showcases their enormous promise. We'll be watching - - you should, too.
Gross-out without being gormless, witty while still staying warm, Super Troopers walks its wisecracking beat with a spring in its step and a sure hand. Silly, but fun.