Broken Lizard: The Best-Worst of an Irreverent Bunch

By Daniel Reif

The Broken Lizard comedy troupe fed upon on my teen-hood. When Beerfest beheld my undivided excitement at an impressionable age, I handed my undivided fandom. When The Slammin Salmon cooked fresh on baked Friday nights in my later adolescence, I latched onto an eden of escapism. Super Troopers was never out of sight.

Lately, to my dear fodder, the eponymous title has consumed Twitter and the blogosphere of online pop-culture coverage. 8 years since their last fully written and produced narrative feature, the man-boy indie-com team of Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, and primary directors/co-stars, Jay Chandrasekhar and Kevin Heffernan, just wrapped shooting on the sequel to the flick that launched their cult-forming filmography. Super Troopers 2 is bending around our rear view mirror, and I’m hot on the tail for the next outrageous stunt from the unpredictable writer-performers!

The birth children of a Lampoon generation, the off-beat, oft-hilarious band of misguided males have delivered low-budget, low brow, highly intoxicated movies for 2 decades. The worst of these can only be consumed with a clique and a bottle cork, but as the podcast which highlights this website, the Poop Culture Blog does not ignore irreverence.

From the drugs to the sex, the friendship and the farts, Broken Lizard rarely fails to let loose; nor forgets how to sweeten up a naughty mix of indulgent ingredients. So grab a pint and hide your shrooms, because the party is not over yet! And before the next bash rolls on in, its high time to stack the past titles of the quelling quintet.

 

6. Broken Lizard Stands Up (2010) and Freeloaders (2012)

After a bronze age (I’m hesitant to include Club Dread in any “golden” declaration) of dvd-collectible slapstick, the troupe found themselves in the slow game of Hollywood maneuvers (splitting off to pitch scripts, bouncing between potential green-lights, etc), but continued to output work outside their brand features.

Too bad the work isn’t worthy of collection. Thank graces they refocused to indie.

 

5. Club Dread (2004)

A month ago, the crew’s slasher romp was but a flimsy footnote in their film repertoire. The cold, untimely passing of legendary character actor, Bill Paxton, now sours this already incoherent farce of exploitative 80’s horror.

In a bloody bikini getaway, Paxton gives us a wacky ‘hola’. As the middle-aged owner/curator of an exotic Costa Rican resort with a mysterious past, the veteran actor never clocks out of the fun in a raucous turn. Let’s go ahead and rename him the star here; the boys become guests to the man.

Dir. Chandrasekhar

 

4. Puddle Cruiser (1996)

In 1996, Broken Lizard traversed their formidable and most complimentary battleground, college. Their debut feature is a cloudy, coming-of-age comedy lead by Lemme as “Felix”, a coolish dork who must mature his brittle-bland persona to achieve a serious thing with a pretty academic, “Suzanne” (Kayren Butler).

Filmed entirely on the campus of Colgate University, where they originally formed in 1990, Lizard’s brand irreverence (which would become famous in their breakout cop-comedy five years later) won The Starfish Award at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival for the unique formula of schoolboy gags, deadpan riffs, eccentric characters, and face-palm, alcoholic embarrassment.

Copies of Puddle Cruiser may only exist in the rarest gas-station bargain bins, but if you can scour the net long enough to find a solid play, pack a bong and pop a Keystone Light as you enjoy the cute beginning of some young wisecracks.

Dir. Chandrasekhar

 

3. The Slammin’ Salmon (2009)

In The Slammin’ Salmon, Michael Clarke Duncan continues the troupe’s now unfortunate tradition of featuring superb character-actors who’ve passed too early. The second of my three re-playable favorites, the fifth feature from the boys finds Duncan as a reckoning business owner and ferocious former boxer. The Green Mile star deadlifts our uproar at one wild night for a desperate, intimidated waiting staff at a prestigious seafood restaurant.

Cobie Smulders, April Bowlby (Two and a Half Men), and Will Forte best the night’s heavy canon of contributors, and in the flick’s most slammin’ dessert, Chandrasekhar rouses the antics as the unforgettable, unpredictable “Zongo”.

Dir. Heffernan

 

2. Super Troopers (2001)

The Rotten Tomatoes critic score for Super Troopers is 35%. The audience score is 90%.
That 90% funded the Indiegogo campaign of Super Troopers 2. That 90% is who I bow to. That 90% is why I recognize the peaks (and the passes) of the prettiest pot-bellied, pot-toking, potty-mouth humor I can find. How can you deny that percentage?!

Dir. Chandrasekhar

 

1. Beerfest (2006)

Five old buddies ditch their foundational adult lives in an outrageously committed effort to redeem the legacy of an endeared, ancestral alcoholic… and Donald Sutherland plays the irresponsibly influential papa. To our applause, Sutherland owns him like the menacing asshole the actor can be. With little appearance, the sting of his spirit settles in as the silent sixth man.

Beerfest is beer’s first true sports film. Here, beer is the vehicle for a story of redemption and grief, anchored to the competitive legacy of one, particularly cartoonish, German chug festival.

The honesty is found in the comedy in the biggest budget handled by the troupe, yet.

Dir. Chandrasekhar

 

This is Broken Lizard. Each film is testing, because each film is low brow. And that is not a reason to dismiss the best of Lizard’s ball-busters. The plots are only set-up, because this troupe is sketch at heart. Each plot tunes its broad, straight-to-dvd orchestra to the boys’ collective comedic choir. Schooled in sketch, the team effort is never inured by grandstands, and each member never forgets to wear a big, fuckin’ heart. The brotherhood is what Paxton, Duncan, and Sutherland locked into. The brotherhood wraps these fumbled adventures in a warm blanket, startling you when the funny pops out from under the covers.

Every now and then, you need irreverence at its dirtiest. Something to spit your water at. At it’s thinnest, something to kick back to. Something to party with while you socialize free of mind. When you need that cinema, choose ‘meow’.


March 9, 2017

All images were courtesy of brokenlizard.com. Go catch up with the guys!

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