In Hot Pursuit

Ticket to ride: The Broken Lizard boys in 'Super Troopers'
Fox Searchlight

The fact that Erik Stolhanske makes sweet love to a bear does not embarrass him. As a recent screening of the new "county Mountie" comedy Super Troopers revealed, the Minnesota native--or, rather, his character in the movie--dresses like a cross-eyed redneck, sneaks into the woods, and pumps away Ron Jeremy-style behind what appears to be an angry specimen of the Yellowstone Park picnic-basket-robbing variety. When the screening is over, Stolhanske justifies the scene to the audience, among whom sit his friends, his family, and his current girlfriend. "Don't worry--she wasn't a real bear," he insists. "And, um, I didn't enjoy it."

But I worry for Stolhanske. It's not the animal amorousness: After all, when Hugh Grant got caught with that cow, Liz Hurley forgave him. Rather, it's that Stolhanske and his four Super Troopers costars--who together form the comedy group Broken Lizard--seem utterly unflustered by their questionable sexual behavior. During an interview at the Marquette Hotel on the day after the screening, Stolhanske, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffeman, and Jay Chandrasekhar (the latter of whom also directed the film) insist on discussing their individual fetishes--those that may or may not involve handcuffs.

"I once saw this girl who had a tattoo of Willie Nelson that was...down there," says Chandrasekhar, his eyes sparkling. "His face was on her stomach. And should I say this? Her muff was his beard."

Soter has an altogether more disturbing tale. "For our next film, Club Dread, we're trying to get Mick Jagger to do a make-out scene," he confesses. And which of the Super Troopers will be smooching ol' Big Lips? Soter and costar Steve Lemme look at each other, put their hands on their hips, and pucker up for a pouty kiss. "Which one of us would you want to see making out with him?" asks Lemme, batting his eyelashes.

Considering all this trash talk, you may be surprised to learn that, the grunting grizzly scene notwithstanding, Super Troopers is a fairly innocent movie. It follows five Vermont State Troopers, all of whom sport Magnum P.I.-grade mustaches, as they try to curb their boredom by turning the act of giving out a speeding ticket into something like performance art. (Anyone who has ever taken one too many tokes will get a giggle out of the opening scene of Chandrasekhar's Thorny messing with the minds of some very stoned and paranoid college kids by repeating everything he does ad infinitum.) Like a Police Academy sequel directed by frat boys, Super Troopers is a welcome relief from the usual gross-out fare. We watch the titular cops smoke joints while viewing Afghani cartoons about monkeys. We witness them driving their vehicles with giant blow-up dolls sitting on the sirens. We wince at their hazing ritual of making the newbie cop drink an entire bottle of maple syrup. We realize that the movie should have been called Dude, Where's My Squad Car?

Most of Super Troopers' jokes are funny in a Caddyshack sort of way: That is, they're really clever and funny, but they don't necessarily make you rupture an artery from too many wheezing guffaws. Yet one begins to get the feeling that it's not the punch lines that count. I mean, anyone knows that people laugh more when they're in a theater full of friends who are laughing. And, as is evident from movies such as Bottle Rocket (or Caddyshack), the same seems to be true for actors who have known one another for a long time, and who feed off each other's jokes.

The five stars of Super Troopers have worked together for seven years: All attended Colgate College; they formed the Broken Lizard comedy group as students. (At the time, it was called Charred Goosebeak. Don't ask.) Their longstanding camaraderie is as obvious in their first film, the micro-cult hit Puddle Cruiser (1996), as it is in Super Troopers: All the one-liners seem as if they've been generated from countless road trips and keggers. And it's apparent that, while the members of Broken Lizard are delivering them, they're also cracking themselves up. The audience wants to be in on the joke. Everyone wants to be in on the joke.

Even Lemme, who has just arrived at the Marquette, having missed last night's screening. "We did this joke about someone's balls last night," Stolhanske explains to the latecomer. "You did?" whines Lemme. "But I'm supposed to be the one who makes dirty jokes! And I wasn't even there last night!"

"That's okay, Steve," says Stolhanske, comfortingly. "You can make the joke about someone's balls tomorrow night."

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