Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw reviews MacGruber
I went into MacGruber with low expectations. After all, movies adapted from SNL sketches have largely been agonizing experiences ever since the days of Wayne’s World passed us by. And at this point, The Blues Brothers seems like a gift from God, rather than a testament to the comedic potential of good SNL turned movie.
So it’s understandable why many people would turn their noses up at the notion that a Saturday Night Live sketch about a MacGyver knock-off, who constantly blows himself up, could be adapted into a feature-length action/comedy. Thankfully for us all, the filmmakers abandon the constrictive premise of the MacGruber SNL sketch and dive headfirst into some wonderfully demented comedic territory.
The “plot” of MacGruber is lifted straight out of your favorite late 80s/early 90s action flick: The brilliant and ruthless Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) has stolen a nuclear warhead, which he intends to unleash upon Washington D.C. The military powers-that-be move to stop Cunth, but only one man, on Earth, is truly manly enough to do the job: Cunth’s arch-nemesis, MacGruber.
Col. James Faith (Powers Boothe) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) track the allegedly deceased super secret agent to a remote village and implore him to once again don his fishing vest uniform, if only to get revenge on Cunth, the man who murdered MacGruber’s true love on their wedding day (the cliches keep coming). Our hero sets out to round up a team of hard-hitters – that doesn’t go so well, so he gets his old friend Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) the master of disguise, and with his team in tow, MacGruber heads off to “pound some Cunth.”
From there the movie is pretty much a series of scenes that work like small SNL sketches in and of themselves – that is if SNL was on late-night pay-per-view. Most of the time, the comedy is loose and silly – slapstick, repeating sight gags, sound gags, mild dirty jokes and such – until without warning the tone shifts into some bizarre and gross moments of truly raunchy comedy.
I won’t spoil a single moment for you, but if you’re going into MacGruber expecting nothing but a stupid MacGyver spoof, you may want to think again. This film earns every inch of its “R” rating – earns it and wears it like a badge of honor. There were moments when I was in tears; granted, I was asking myself what strange universe I had fallen into, but I did know one thing: it was a damn funny one. And the cast and crew deserve all the credit.
SNL vets Will Forte and Kristen Wiig are totally on point. Wiig plays her usual quiet quirky character, but it’s a perfect (and I mean perfect) foil for the Tour De Force who is Will Forte. He may not be the SNL member whose face pops up first and foremost in your mind – but just try to forget him after the soon-to-be-infamous “celery scene.” Forte unleashed is truly awesome to behold, and though MacGruber is probably the dumbest idiot action hero ever conceived, Forte still manages to give him a swagger and attitude that almost puts him up there with some of the 80s action heroes he seeks to spoof. Just don’t ask yourself how this bumbling dumbass ever got to be such a tough guy legend – your head will explode.
Forte also co-wrote the film along with veteran SNL writers John Solomon and Jorma Taccone. The three obviously work well together, and if nothing else, they are fearless. MacGruber skins itself in the cliched plot of a 80/90s action flick, yes, but that skin is packed with a bunch of jokes that hit more often than miss; kept me at least chuckling most of the time; and the seriously demented parts are so far out there, and so funny, that I’m not sure anybody in the theater truly saw every moment.
What’s also impressive is the work of Jorma Taccone as a director. Taccone has been involved in some of SNL‘s best digital shorts, and when they’re playing things straight, MacGruber actually looks like a pretty impressive action flick. The opening scene, (Cunth’s team hijacking the nuclear warhead) actually had me excited like I was about to see a real action flick. If there are any superhero movies about slightly demented heroes anybody wants to make, I nominate this guy.
Aiding and abetting the hilarity in this film are the guys given the dirty job of playing things straight. It’s good to see Ryan Phillippe back onscreen, he’s a good pick to play the one sane soldier who can tell that MacGruber is a complete dumbass. By the end of the film, Phillippe joins his comedic partners Forte and Wiig in the deep end, and props to him for swimming there. Powers Boothe, with his famous cold-eyed intensity, makes every awkward scene he shares with Forte that much more funny – everybody is totally committed and the entire cast plays off one another well.
While he spends most of the film on his own, Val Kilmer is great as Von Cunth, delivering a villain who is part cliche, part menace and part Kilmer-brand weirdo. It’s pretty great – though the fact that Kilmer is looking like Steven Segeal these days is not so great… for him. For us it’s pretty great.
So, you know what? Don’t even listen to me or any other critic, for that matter. Go into MacGruber with your low expectations and just let the movie hit you. And it will hit you – full-on in your face and when it does, it will do things to you. Things you will remember (and be laughing at) days later.
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