Year of Release: 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Date Viewed: May 21st, 2010
The character of MacGruber (a nod to another famous action hero, MacGyver) first appeared on the small screen as a recurring character on NBC's Saturday Night Live program. His segments were some of the shortest on the program and consisted of him attempting to defuse a bomb that was set to detonate in some interior room at an unknown location. The location never changed and neither did the skit's formula. While MacGruber acts like he knows what he's doing, a sidekick stands by the doorway informing him of how much time is left on the countdown before detonation and the host of the week would distract him with a taunting conversation. Here's the gag, if you want to call it that. MacGruber never succeeds in his mission. The guest host always distracts him long enough so that everyone in the room is blown up by the bomb and the audience laughs, setting up the next segment. But that doesn't stop MacGruber from re-appearing next week or sometimes later in the same episode attempting to stop another bomb in the same exact room.
Now what if I told you that the show's producers decided that the MacGruber sketch deserves a longer treatment, more specifically a feature length treatment? Well, guess what? It's true. The klutzy version of MacGyver has his own movie and represents Saturday Night Live's first attempt in ten years to transfer one of their small screen characters to the big screen.
Now what if I told you that the producers decided not to change anything, simply do a cut-and-paste job to the MacGruber formula, and repeat it enough times so it runs ninety minutes long? Well, guess what? You can breathe a sigh of relief because that is not what happened. Saturday Night Live's reputation for good writing may have taken some hard blows in recent years. However, these writers were smart enough to know that the gimmick needed to be taken into a different direction for it to stand on its feet.
Before MacGruber is re-introduced to the audience, the film introduces its villain with a very unfortunate last name; Dieter Von Cunth, played by Val Kilmer in his first mainstream theatrical role in several years. His character is responsible for the murder of MacGruber's first bride and later decides he wants to destroy and take over the world because that's what evil people like to do. Cunth's scenes are played straight and serious which helps MacGruber's scenes which are played as a farce look all the more ridiculous.
The government decides that Cunth is too much for them to handle and they need to bring in the best man for the job. Former Green Beret, Navy Seal and Army Ranger. Winner of sixteen Purple Hearts, three Congressional Medals of Honor and seven Presidential Medals of Bravery. No, it's not Forrest Gump. It's the one and only Macgruber. (Will Forte)
MacGruber accepts the assignment, knowing that it could provide closure to a personal tragedy that has haunted him for years. Plus he can't resist another chance to find some new women and rip some throats out.
The movie almost reaches Naked Gun level of lunacy. MacGruber seems to know what he's doing and his peers seem to trust him for whatever reason. But he is so bad at his work that you would never guess him as a genius. If Frank Drebin had a son, MacGruber would kill him and assume his identity.
The humor is mostly lowbrow done in a genius way. The movie knows that its audience demands silliness. And they will get it. Maybe even a little more than they bargained for. The crude nature of the jokes will cause most folks of high class to look around nervously, wondering if it's safe to laugh. Others will not care in the slightest. They will eat it up and ask for seconds. At my showing, one person that was seated in the very back of the theater was laughing so hard that he had trouble breathing. And it was during the dirtiest scene in the entire movie.
I won't deny that the jokes are a wide arrangement of hit-and-missed targets, but what really sold the film for me was the performances of MacGruber's sidekicks. Lieutenant Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillipe) and Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig). Phillipe deserves special mention because he made his name in Hollywood with admirable dramatic roles. Seeing him in a movie as ridiculous as this one and often participating in self-depreciating gags has increased my already high respect for him. He nearly steals the show.
Amidst all the chaos, see how many references to 1980s action films you can spot. Road House and the Rambo saga were most obvious to me.
To enjoy MacGruber, you have to be willing to accept and understand what it is. A shameless array of violence, gore, over-the-top characters, slapstick, more violence, dramatic actors trying something different, a funny and disturbing sex scene, more slapstick, and a final death scene that deserves more than one slow-motion replay. Sound like a fun time? Then go check it out.