Broken Lizard has had a complex sort of history. After throwing lightning in an absurdly tiny bottle with Super Troopers back in 2001, they’ve struggled to hit the same sort of nerve that made liters and meowing the household items they once were. Or, more accurately, fans have struggled to map their personal experiences of films like Club Dread and Beerfest to what they hold so dear about some charmingly inept Vermont state troopers.

That puts the sequel Super Troopers 2 in an especially precarious and notably rare position. What with being one of the largest crowdfunded movies, they have 4.7 million reasons to just rehash old jokes and present them as new gags. But in their admirable (if extremely niche) ambition, they also need to grow out of their flash in the pan to do new things. And to their credit, they do both.

But in throwing out most of the meat and keeping some of the potatoes, they forgot to replace everything with anything. These are still some tender and lovable idiots doing their best as live-action cartoon characters, but even the tenuous and fragile fabric tying together the plot in the first movie is gone. (The ingredients of the finale come up in material ways maybe twice and then it all just happens.) This is more a Mr. Show-like collection of skits than a film in the traditional sense, and for most fans, that may be enough.

After an unnamed incident that resulted in their expulsion from the Spurbury Police Department, all the troopers have since moved on with their lives in various ways. Some have gone into construction, some do logging, and others just…live, I guess? But after a call to regroup for a fishing trip just north of the border with their old boss Captain O’Hagen (Brian Cox), they find out there’s more to the story.

I’ll end it there because the fourth dimensional, acrobatic logic that lands them back in uniforms is one of the great joys of the movie, but it all ends up regardless back where we remember them: state troopers and full of shenanigans. And as mentioned before, to their credit, these are largely new goofs. Even the development of their new professional rivals in the form of three Canadian Mounties is a different dynamic from before (thanks largely to the delightfully broad performances from Tyler Labine, Will Sasso, and Hayes MacArthur).

Even then, they feel too aware of what they’re trying to stay away from, purposefully making sure what feels familiar to their cult classic is with an objective in mind. Granted, that yields some of the best callbacks any sequel has managed before by expanding to ludicrous degrees what you remember and contorting your expectations. The things you see they dig back up in the trailer are there, but so much better in their final form, so don’t fear that.

Super Troopers 2

But this odd feeling of kowtowing to some metaphysical restraint puts the troupe at odds with when they work best, which is to say unfettered and nearly sociopathic. The opening sequence, in fact, which very well may take place in an alternate timeline/reality, is a perfect example of that. It’s Wile E. Coyote levels of insane and monstrous and it’s fantastic. From the off-the-cuff references to things we’ll never know to the finely tuned slapstick, it’s the kind of bigger and weirder stuff you’d expect with a larger budget.

So much of the movie, though, is spent in strangely grounded and intimate encounters. That’s not to say it can’t work for them (some of the best work they’ve done has been in that form via Beerfest) but here it often feels…hollow. Sloppily constructed and hazily enacted. And the laughs they do get are in spite of what’s happening rather than because of it.

They also make the bewildering decision to make Farva (Kevin Heffernan) the comedic frontman for most of it. He worked previously because of everything around him. His soda cup, being stuck on the radio, generally falling for every prank. This time around, he just gets more screen time and less comeuppance. He’s just brash and obnoxious for no particular reason. Heffernan admirably makes some of it work, but a lot of the movie is watching a bullish dummy just wreck shop for kicks.

Super Troopers 2

Mostly, though, the film works. It’s oddly audacious in ways you wouldn’t expect, purposefully rebuffing and spinning the very elements that gave them the cred to pull off a crowdfunded sequel like this. But there’s so much more that doesn’t ever end up congealing together. It’s disappointing, but perhaps the greater disappointment would be to not have a sequel at all.

Final Score: 5 out of 10