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MacGruber (2010) ***

June 7, 2010

 

written by: Jorma Taccone

produced by: Lorne Michaels, John Goldwyn & Ryan Kavanaugh

directed by: Jorma Taccone, Will Forte & John Solomon

rated (for strong crude and sexual content, violence, language and some nudity)

89 min.

U.S. release date: May 21, 2010

 

Television producer and writer, Lorne Michaels has brought to the big screen several Saturday Night Live sketch spin-offs from the small screen over the years. Some have been great, possibly considered classics (“Wayne’s World” & “Tommy Boy”), and others have been supreme duds (“Coneheads” & “Stuart Saves His Family”), with no middle ground entertainment in-between. While, the latest SNL film is far from a classic or great, it is good, and considering the limited and short-lived material it originates from, it shouldn’t be. Still, it’s no surprise that this movie with its crude humor and one-note characters isn’t doing well but it could be that its approach and delivery isn’t being considered.

The movie opens supposedly in a Siberian dessert where ubervillian Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) and his stock henchmen take control of a quite phallic nuclear missile called the X-5 from the Russians. His plan is to sell the device to the highest bidder as the golden ticket to America’s demise. This activity sets the Pentagon in a panic, so Col. Faith (Powers Booth, in full Richard Crenna mode) along with Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillipe) search for the only man who can save the nation….MacGruber! They find him in an Ecudorian monastery, licking his wounds and vowing to a life of peace. When Faith informs him that Cunth, the man who killed his bride, Casey Sullivan (Maya Rudolph) on their wedding day, is the current world threat, there’s nothing that could stop MacGruber from stopping him….except maybe himself.

 

Sure, MacGruber (Will Forte), is a super-soldier (as unbelievable as it seems) with the uncanny ability to turn any item into a deadly weapon but the guy is a complete idiot. He manages to blow-up the entire mercenary team he just recruited to go after Cunth and is not below performing any kind of lewd sexual act on anyone to get to Cunth. In desperation, he reluctantly recruits reliable Piper and longtime friend, Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig), a shy singer/songwriter with a thing for MacGruber. Together, the three must rely on each other in order to shut down a nightclub, infiltrate a posh party and break into a warehouse to thwart the enemy’s plans. Of course, the trail to victory has various expected failures, leading MacGruber to doubt his abilities right when his country is counting on him.

As mentioned above, there’s really no reason this movie should work but it effortlessly excells as an 80’s action movie homage/parody. Director and co-writer, Jorma Taccone and producer Forte are clearly aware of the interchangeable action flicks from Carolco and Cannon. These were studios that employed A to C-list muscle-bound stars that could take out their foes with a clever one-liner amid bombastic explosions and extensive collateral damage. Taccone takes those conventions and inserts them into one absurd situation after the next yet this may only hit home for those who are familiar with such movies. Still, the filmmakers know what kind of genre to place the mulleted MacGruber in, himself a parody of the 80’s TV hit MacGuyver, since the character’s SNL shorts were quite thin and never exactly laugh-out-loud funny.

 

It remains to be seen if Forte will have any life on the big screen beyond this. The guy is hilarious despite being sort of an acquired-taste. There really is little that he won’t do for a laugh or to offend here. Be prepared to witness his bare buttocks quite a bit as well as  a see stuff stuck up it, too. Also, know that the R-rating is well-earned here as the gags are often profane with F-bombs dropped repeatedly amongst a variety of sex jokes. This formula doesn’t always work but at least it maintains the character of MacGruber, for better or worse. While Forte and Wiig are two of the more consistently hilarious cast members on SNL, she has been able to show more range in her film work. I’m curious to see where he goes from here. Will he continue with animated voice work, take a shot at drama or go for more quirky and lewd comedy? Time will tell. I’m open to anything from Forte, who has fast become one of those guys I can just crack up at by looking at him.

You have to know that a movie like this doesn’t have any lofty goals except to bring the stupid in spades. That’s not to say it is stupidly made. Taccone may not always hit the bullseye when it comes to laughs but I give him credit for trying to throw everything at the target. He’s aware there’s not much to the plot, so he keeps it tight and lets Forte do his thing while Phillipe solidly grounds viewers as the straight man. In fact, the best thing the supporting cast does is take the material seriously. You kind of have to in order to sell: celery-garnished nudity, bloody throat-ripping and uncomfortably awkward orgasms. The most prominent actor to convey such an approach is the bloated Kilmer, hamming it up in method menace. The only time the movie nose dives is when the screenplay stops to decide its next destination, instead of just letting it all play fast and loose.

“MacGruber” made me laugh heartedly and steadily knowing full well I was one of the few in the theater who knew when and why to laugh. That’s fine. It’s not for everyone, but I have a feeling it will find cult status when it arrives on DVD and Blu-ray. I’ll gladly stop and watch it in all it’s cheesy 80’s soundtrack glory late one night while channel-surfing. “MacGruber” defuses the comedic mediocrity we see all too often in theaters while detonating your senses again and again in record time.

 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2010 9:09 am

    I can see this one gaining “cult” status in its DVD state as well… but that’s mostly because it doesn’t cost anything to watch a DVD. This movie has gotten crushed at the box office, and is down to a few hundred screen nationwide only after 3 weeks in theaters. Yeesh.

    I also thoroughly enjoyed my experience at MACGRUBER, but again… I didn’t pay.

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