MacGruber (2010, dir. Jorma Taccone)
Starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph
It began with The Blues Brothers and it was a long time before another one was made. Then with Wayne’s World, followed by The Coneheads, Night at the Roxbury, Superstar, and The Ladies’ Man. The idea of adapting a skit from Saturday Night Live series is not new, but never has the source material been so brief. MacGruber is originally a thirty second bumper to commercials, so the idea of making a feature film around the character is a bit of an oddity. It’s also a very simply parody of the MacGyver television series, which itself is almost twenty years past. So how does this longshot stack up as a full length movie?
The premise borrows its plot from films like Rambo, with MacGruber (Forte) as a former Pentagon agent who has been living in a monastery for the last decade after the tragic death of his bride. When the villainous Dieter Von Cunth (Kilmer) steals a Russian nuclear missile, MacGruber is called back into action alongside straight arrow Lt. Dixon Piper (Phillippe) and his former sidekick Vicki St. Elmo (Wiig). The trio engage in a series of episodic attempts to either get in contact with Von Cunth and foil his plans. These typically involve Piper suggesting a reasonable military tactic, while MacGruber does something outlandish (i.e. hopping naked with a piece of celery sticking out of his butt). The plot hits all the expected points, and delivers a very hard R-rated comedy.
The sources being parodied here are done by people who know those sources well. Director Taccone, part of The Lonely Island and a writer for SNL, most definitely grew up watching the awful Golan-Globus military action films of the 1980s (Death Wish, Cobra, American Ninja). From that perspective, its an amusing film but nothing terribly special. I believe I chuckled once or twice, but for the most part I felt myself slogging through the picture, simply trying to make it to the end. Of all the current cast of SNL, Will Forte is far and away my favorite, but when he is constrained by SNL material he’s never as funny as he could be. Such is the case here, the jokes feel very lazy and the payoffs are never clever or surprising. In the end, its a case of a flimsy premise being stretched beyond its abilities to hold together, resulting in an incredibly disappointing and forgettable film.