If you haven’t seen Super Troopers, Club Dread or Beerfest, you’re probably not familiar with the comedy troupe known as Broken Lizard. Since their college days, Jay Chandrasekhar (Director, Dukes of Hazzard), Kevin Heffernan, Stephen Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske have been making people laugh and sometimes, making a movie or two. I first became familiar with their work when a colleague told me to check out Super Troopers.
I scoffed. It sounded stupid. Then, late one night on cable, Super Troopers was on, so I gave it a chance. I was right. It was stupid. It was also one of the funniest little films I’d seen in a very long time. After drinking the Kool Aid and becoming a member of the Broken Lizard fan club, I scoured the internet to find a copy of their first film, Puddle Cruiser. On some crappy website where I think I paid $5, I was able to see the crew’s maiden film in all it’s inexperienced glory. You know what, it was pretty good.
This 1996 comedy features Steve Lemme as Felix Bean, an average guy who loves a girl. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff. The charm of this movie, filmed entirely on the Colgate University campus, is in the subtle humor and the likability of the cast. From the opening scene with 70’s porn music playing in the background, to the final clip, it draws you into the silliness of these five college buddies and their exploits.
For fans who have watched the evolution of Broken Lizard via their films, it is clear that Lemme has had some drama lessons since this film. His timing and delivery are the stuff of amateurs, but his charm and demeanor make up for his sometimes atrocious acting skills. Stolhanske is impressive in his portrayal of a creepy latter day hippy, and although Soter has only a handful of lines, almost all of them are hilarious, and delivered with his signature affable cluelessness.
Karyen Butler as “the girl,” has an Andie MacDowell allure that makes her feisty character likable, in spite of the way she toys with Bean’s heart. As expected, there was at least one “weed scene,” a BL staple. There was also some really good comedy, and a simple yet effective storyline that kept me watching. I’m not surprised that it won rave reviews at Sundance and a Golden Starfish at the 1996 Hamptons International Film Festival. If you enjoy silly, quirky, low budget films with admirable comic talent and some great dialogue, give this film a chance.
Don’t make the mistake of judging Broken Lizard by the abomination that was Club Dredd. I’m fairly certain that Bill Paxton still cries himself to sleep over that one. Strangely, most find Beerfest to be their best so far, but I will always be loyal to their first films, Puddle Cruiser and Super Troopers, made with low budgets and great skill.
Puddle Cruiser is available on DVD right now at Amazon.