Movie Review: MacGruber

Given the dismal state of SNL spinoff flicks, there was no reason to expect much of anything from “MacGruber,” the primitive sketch in which Will Forte’s “MacGuyver” knockoff gets blown up in 90 seconds thanks to his own ineptitude.

But by framing the feature flick as a straight-up parody of 1980s action films, “MacGruber” turns into the rare SNL success story – at least from a creative standpoint.

Financially, the movie is one of the biggest flops in recent memory – apparently the stench of other horrible SNL movies were too much for the general public to overcome.

At the showing I went to, there were three other dudes in the audience, shunted off into the smallest theater in the megaplex. By the time you read this, it will probably be headed to DVD.

Mark my words, however – “MacGruber” is destined to become quoted in college dorms and midnight showing for years to come.

The story opens with our hero living in solitude in Central America, still reeling from the murder of his wife on his wedding day. MacGruber is our country’s best operative, but has hung up his mullet. Not even the prodding from his former supervisor, Col. Faith (Powers Boothe in the Richard Crenna role), can get our man to change his mind.

But when he finds out that Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) has stolen a Russian missile and intends to launch it on U.S. soil, he jumps back into to action, recruiting his old team … and then accidentally killing them with his homemade bombs.

So, he’s left with Vickie St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and Sgt. Piper (Ryan Phillippe) to take on von Cunth. Not much of a team, but MacGruber isn’t much of a spy, preferring to drop upper deckers in his adversaries’ toilets than doing actual surveillance work.

Director Jorma Taccone and his writing crew don’t flinch on the excessive 80s references. Much like “Black Dynamite,” the obsessive, yet loving look at blaxploitation, “MacGruber” requires audiences to be familiar with all the tropes of the Sly and Arnold flicks to really enjoy what’s happening on screen. At a certain level it leaves the parody realm and becomes, with a straight face, the kind of film it mocks.

While I found some inspired bits of humor – MacGruber’s gruesome finishing move, his desperation attempts to stay on the case, and his obsession with a certain license plate – you get the feeling that they stretched the comedic potential to the limit. The last third of the film falls flat, delving into straight action territory. If they had finished as strong as they started, the movie would have been a real winner.

For all the talk about its commercial failure, “MacGruber” will likely break even – the film only cost $10 million to make – but it likely will be a long time before we see another SNL feature on the big screen again. Maybe that’s OK.

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~ by Elliott on June 2, 2010.

One Response to “Movie Review: MacGruber”

  1. Sometimes it’s okay to be lowbrow. Maybe I was just in the right mood, but this had me giggling consistently, with several outright guffaws. Included one of the funniest sex scenes I’ve ever seen. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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