Fox // 2005 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 10th, 2006
From the minds behind Super Troopers and Club Dread comes Broken Lizard's first foray into feature film: the 1996 college comedy Puddle Cruiser.
Felix Bean (Steve Lemme) is an average college dude, getting in his share of trouble and trying to meet women. While at a frat party, his eyes fall on the attractive Suzanne (Kayren Butler) and he immediately smitten. Despite the warnings from his friends Zack (Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed), Grogan (Kevin Heffernan) and Matt (Paul Soter) that Suzanne is out of his league, Felix is undeterred, and strikes a conversation.
From then on it's the age-old romantic game of campus cat-and-mouse and Felix tries to woo the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately there's a large obstacle to his affections, and that's Suzanne's high school boyfriend Traci Shannon (Jamison Shelbry), a sturdy, arrogant rugby player who's eager to flatten his newest rival.
As Felix attempts to negotiate the tricky twists and turns of the dating life, his friends have their own problems: Zack is missing one digit from a girl's phone number and is forced to dial a seemingly endless number of permutations to locate her, and Matt and Grogan are on trial for breaking into the cafeteria (an escapade, incidentally, Felix was a part of).
To prove to Suzanne that he is the man for her, Felix enlists on the college rugby team, even though it all but guarantees severe injuries and desecration at the hands of Traci Shannon.
Your enjoyment of this film, I believe, will correspond almost directly to your affinity for the Broken Lizard fellas. If you're a big fan of their stuff, I think you'll get a solid kick out of their take on the college humor genre. If you're ambivalent to their comedy, I'd be willing to wager you won't be laughing very frequently at Puddle Cruiser.
Here's where I stand with the comedy troupe:
I found Super Troopers sporadically hilarious, solidly entertaining, and profoundly stupid. Club Dread I was less than enamored with, as it seemed to try to cover two genres (comedy and horror) with little success; it wasn't that funny and it wasn't that scary. The troupe members strike me as fun and charismatic, but I am certainly not a fan-boy and do not lavish fawning praises on their flicks like some folks seem to.
Puddle Cruiser is the least funniest Broken Lizard film I've seen, light years behind the sometimes-inspired insanity of Super Troopers and not even able to top the so-so laugh-generation of Club Dread.
Which is not to say the film doesn't have its moments. It does. There are a decent amount of bits that work spread through the runtime, though these are sadly few and far between, and, ultimately, are unable to sustain the needle on the yuks-o-meter.
Stuff I liked.
"The Traci Shannon bit" was good, especially Zack's explanation of why a dude with a girl's name is such a potential bad-ass. Unfortunately this gag got stretched a bit too thing, cheapening it.
"Freaky Reaky" is the pothead mailroom clerk, played by Eric Stolhanske, and though his screentime is fairly limited he's enjoyable while up there, specifically in the dream sequence with Emily (Alison Clapp).
"Felix's after-rugby condition" is typical Broken Lizard slapstick, a comedic method these guys really excel in.
"Kevin Hefferman and Paul Soter" play, arguably, the two funniest characters. Sure, they're the typical college dumb-asses, but the two jive off each other very well, and their stint with community service is great.
Finally, "Felix Bean" himself was a decent character and a welcome alternative to the usual super-awesome frat-boy-Parker-Lewis-hybrid that everyone loves and the girls fawn over. Felix is just a regular schmo, and that makes him accessible.
So there was definitely some cool crap in this flick, but not nearly enough inventive, unique comedy to lift it above the typical college farce. Seriously, the main gripe I have is that Puddle Cruiser just isn't funny enough to mandate a viewing. If you're a Broken Lizard completist then you own it already, and if you dig the college-comedy thing you'll likely enjoy some what's going on, but for the casual fan searching for some solid laughs in a 100-minute span, I doubt this will do the trick.
The 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks fine and the stereo mix is serviceable. For the extras: the Broken Lizard guys offer entertaining commentaries in two separate tracks and "Rodeo Clowns," a 17-minute documentary detailing the guys' grassroots marketing of their flicks on college campuses, is very, very good. These homeboys take their comedy seriously.
It's watchable yes, and not poorly made at all, but the laughs just aren't there for Puddle Cruiser. Broken Lizard fanatics will likely disagree vehemently.
Sorry, but you're off the Dean's List.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary with Broken Lizard
* "Rodeo Clowns" Documentary