The brainchild of a five-man comedy team called Broken Lizard, Super Troopers is a painfully leaden film destined for pre-dawn cable television slots. Featuring fewer laughs than a funeral, the film seems geared towards middle-aged party-animal wannabes too tired or timid to seek out the real thing.

The small town of Spurbury, Vermont, supports two police departments. Local cops led by Chief Grady (Daniel Von Bargen) look down on the highway cops, who could lose their office as the result of budget cuts. O'Hagan (Brian Cox), captain of the local state police, needs a big case to keep his unit going, but his men are more interested in pulling pranks than in solving crimes.

Stopping a trucker who is ostensibly hauling soap, Mac (Steve Lemme) and his partner Foster (Paul Soter) accidentally discover 150 kilos of pot in his trailer. They manage to let the driver escape, but Foster later ties the pot to a woman found murdered in a Winnebago. Working secretly with Ursula (Marisa Coughlan), a beautiful town cop, Foster follows clues he finds in Afghan cartoons, or, as he calls them, 'Afghanimation.'

When not chugging bottles of pancake syrup, rookie highway cop Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske) teams with veteran Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar). But Rabbit is caught speeding in an impounded Porsche, and is placed on desk duty. That means Thorny has to work with the reviled Farva (Kevin Heffernan). On their first day, Farva is arrested by town cops for picking a fight at a fast-food restaurant. Hoping to switch to their department, Farva tells the town cops about Foster's work. When the state police learn about Farva's treachery, they must come up with a new plan to best their rivals.

No one in the film takes the plot seriously, so it doesn't matter what happens. The jokes revolve mostly around getting or being stoned, leading to such hilarious situations as five drunk cops careening around in a stolen car and threatening bystanders with trumped-up charges. Even the lamest teen comedies come up with funnier, and raunchier, gags.

The Broken Lizard players display an easy affability with each other, but apart from Heffernan lack screen presence. The other performances range from game to atrocious. Still, it's the writing that cripples Super Troopers. Is the low point when Mac uses a radar gun to time himself masturbating? Or is it when Farva, clutching a toilet bowl, vomits repeatedly? Judging from the stony silence that greeted one recent screening, perhaps the entire film can be viewed as one long trough of wasted time.

--David Eagan