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SUPER TROOPERS 2

Producer: Richard Perello
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Writer: Broken Lizard
Stars: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Brian Cox, Rob Lowe, Damon Wayans Jr., Sean William Scott, Marisa Coughlan, Lynda Carter, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Tyler Labine, Will Sasso, Hayes MacArthur, Paul Walter Hauser, Jim Gaffigan, Fred Savage, Jimmy Tatro and Clifton Collins, Jr.
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures

F

“Super Troopers 2” has been in the works since the original’s release in 2002, and one has to say that if this is all Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) has been able to come up with in sixteen years, they should probably close up shop pronto. The members of the troupe were already rather long in the tooth to be doing the sort of raucous, crude, stupid, unfunny stoned frat-boy stuff represented by the first picture more than a decade and a half ago; now they seem utterly desperate, and positively over-the-hill, repeating the routine.

The plot, if one can call it that, is as close to a carbon copy of the first flick as can be. After being dismissed as Vermont troopers after the catastrophic events of the original, the numbskull boys—Thorny (Chandrasekhar), Foster (Soter), Mac (Lemme), Favra (Heffernan) and Rabbit (Stolhanske)–are reduced to working construction. But they’re called back into service by the Vermont governor (Lynda Carter, reprising her embarrassing cameo) when it’s discovered that the state really juts into an area of Quebec previously deemed Canadian. So our dissipated bunch of losers are named to replace the local Mounties (Tyler Labine, Will Sasso and Hayes MacArthur) under the command of their old captain John O’Hagen, played again by a slumming Brian Cox. (One only hopes his paycheck was substantial.)

While being confronted by hostility from the locals, with the exception of the local mayor (Rob Lowe, affecting one of the many horrible French-Canadian accents strewn throughout) and an official trying to expedite the territorial turnover (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the troopers discover another smuggling operation, this one involving fake iPhones and drugs, and try to identify the culprits. Interspersed with this threadbare narrative is a succession of sketches involving Canadian stereotypes (“niceness” among them), a battle with a bear that invades the station, and jokes about differences between the U.S. and its northern neighbor (kilometers versus miles—what hilarity! permissive Canuck laws about prostitution and alcohol strength—how funny!)

Then there are the long-running gags, like Thorny’s addiction to female sex-enhancement pills or Rooster’s romance with Chriqui. Juvenile drug humor is bountiful (a dream sequence at the start, featuring Sean William Scott and Damon Wayans Jr. as a couple of dumb-as-rock cops, combines that with slapstick violence of a remarkably unpleasant sort), as is naughty comedy focusing on balls and penises (one drearily repeated joke stresses putting “caulk” in a hole, and the number of crotch punches and kicks is beyond counting).

All the members of the Lizard team are intensely irritating, but Heffernan surely takes the cake as the endlessly obnoxious, vulgar loudmouth Favra. It’s incredible that a character who’s insufferable at the start should become more and more so as the movie drags on, but Heffernan manages that apparently impossible feat. Lots of people in these slob comedies are grating, but Favra takes top dishonors in the constellation of such disreputable creatures. Of the other cast members, Lowe comes off worst simply because he has the most screen time, but nobody fares well, though Marisa Coughlan, as a pretty U.S. motocycle cop, and Fred Savage, showing up in a closing credits clip after being referred to throughout, come closest.

As one might expect, “Troopers 2” is technically mediocre, with Chandrasekhar’s lackadaisical direction matched by similar work from the rest of the crew. Of course the ratty look of the picture is supposed to be part of its crummy charm, but in reality it’s just ugly.

The original “Super Troopers,” wretched as it was, became a sort of cult favorite among some in its video afterlife. They will probably enjoy this reunion with the goofball quintet, especially if fortified by their sense-affecting substance of choice. For anyone else, this lower-than-lowbrow mess—which takes a place somewhere between Jerry Lewis at his worst and the Three Stooges at their oldest (when you feared that every pratfall might be fatal), laced with a heavy dose of Cheech and Chong—will be a very painful experience.

I FEEL PRETTY

Producer: McG, Nicolas Chartier, Alissa Phillips, Dominic Rustam and Mary Viola
Director: Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein
Writer: Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein
Stars: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Aidy Bryant, Busy Phillips, Emily Ratajkowski, Adrian Martinez, Naomi Campbell, Lauren Hutton, Tom Hopper, Sasheer Zamata and Dave Attell
Studio: STX Films

C-

It was once the convention of clichéd Hollywood movies that when somebody got bonked on the head, it resulted in convenient amnesia, which would be resolved by another blow to the noggin. In Amy Schumer’s new romantic fantasy, a well-meaning but strangely off-kilter comic critique of unrealistic standards of female beauty, it instead causes a flood of unaccustomed self-confidence, which is, of course, eventually eliminated by another blow that brings her character back down to earth and invites a rather insipid third-act moral about being yourself.

Renee Barrett (Schumer) is introduced as a plain but spunky young woman working in the basement online department of cosmetics powerhouse Lily LeClaire, alongside good-natured slob Mason (Adrian Martinez). She thinks herself unattractive because she doesn’t fit the image of beautiful women who populate not only the covers of glossy magazines but the glitzy offices of the firm she works for, now run by Lily’s (Lauren Hutton) granddaughter Avery (Michelle Williams, using a hilariously whispery baby-doll voice).

So while joining with her equally “plain” girlfriends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps) to make a dating video—an effort that gets a humiliating zero views—she decides to take action, joining a stationary bike class to lose weight. Unfortunately the apparatus collapses beneath her. (The implausibility of this is overwhelming: the script seems to suggest that she’s elephantine, which is clearly not the case.) And in a second tumble she hits her head, leading her to see herself as a super-beauty in her own mind and deal with others as if they shared that perception. We’re never shown how Renee now sees herself physically, but the bewildered reactions of those she now interacts with are amusing enough. One such is Ethan (Rory Scovel), whom she meets at a dry cleaner’s and insists on sharing phone numbers with. The two soon become a number of a different sort.

Meanwhile she decides to apply for the receptionist’s job at the Lily LeClaire corporate office, and is hired not just on the basis of her utter assurance that she belongs with all the slinky beauties in the place but because the company is about to start a line of products designed to appeal to “regular” customers at outlets like Target, and she can offer suggestions about what the “non-elites” will respond to. She not only becomes a trusted advisor to Avery and a prospective spokesperson for the new line of products, but catches the eye of Avery’s playboy brother Grant (Tom Hopper).

But the experience has its drawbacks. Renee’s over-confidence leads to a breach with Vivian and Jane as she pushes them to change, too. And when, right before an important conference, she clumsily crashes into a shower window after becoming flustered over Grant’s attention, her confidence evaporates, and she’s thrown into a renewed funk about her looks, even threatening to break up with Ethan. Whatever lesson can she—and we—learn from all this?

Schumer gives her all to the formulaic script by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, who specialize in romantic comedy conventions, though here they try to add some messages associated with the actress’ prior work satirizing common presumptions about beauty, though they turn out to be rather mixed, leading to lots of overstatement (as in a wet tee-shirt contest). They also directed, apparently giving their star very free rein—many of Schumer’s riffs seem to be improvised, and she delivers them with an energy that can come across as manic.

The rest of the cast is pretty much overpowered by her, but Williams cuts a delicious figure of privilege clueless about ordinary folk, while Scovel makes an ingratiatingly laid-back romantic interest (though, to be honest, there are occasional hints about layers to Ethan’s character that go unexplored). Martinez gets some juicy moments, and Emily Ratajkowski a few nice ones as a stunning woman who teaches Renee that looks aren’t everything. The technical crew bring their A game to the enterprise, with Florian Ballhaus’ cinematography complementing William O. Hunter’s production design and Debra McGuire’s costumes. Only Tia Nolan’s editing feels a mite slack, though that might be the result of the direction.

“I Feel Pretty” has already aroused some online criticism of fat-shaming, and it does open itself up to accusations of insensitivity, not only about what used to be called “plus-size” women but to thin-as-a-rail, supermodel types as well. Such is the movie’s uncertain messaging that a viewer might request a tap on her skull after seeing it, hoping that it will bring about a two-hour bout of forgetfulness so that she won’t recall having sat through it. Setting aside such larger objections, one can dismiss it as simply not as funny or insightful as it ought to be.