MacGruber review

As the first big comedy of the summer, did MacGruber tickle Ron's funny bone?

There’s the best of the best. The Green Berets, the Airborne Rangers, the Navy Seals? They’re nothing compared to the greatest secret agent/problem solver/mankiller in history, MacGruber (Will Forte). He’s got a combat record the likes of which the military has never seen, he’s been a member of all of the above elite special forces units, and he’s also got a heroic mullet worn in a completely non-ironic manner.

MacGruber has been gone a long time. For ten years, in fact, he’s been living in a monastery in Mexico, while the world has believed him to be dead. He was attacked at his wedding by his arch nemesis, Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer). Except there’s no proof Von Cunth did it, and in the ten years MacGruber has been living underground, Von Cunth has risen to be a prominent businessman with lots of political connections that make him untouchable. Just not to MacGruber, who has never met a man he couldn’t touch.

However, Von Cunth has put together a group of topnotch criminals to be part of his gang, and he’s stolen a nuclear warhead that he aims to use on Washington, D.C. for reasons unknown. So MacGruber’s got to put together his own team. Unfortunately, some of MacGruber’s homemade explosives went off prematurely, so he’s stuck with two people: Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and the guy he doesn’t like at first but will grow to like over the course of the movie, Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe).

Movies based off Saturday Night Live sketches are very rarely good. What’s funny as a one-off joke, or a series of short jokes, can rarely ever be knitted together to fill a 90 minute movie. I was hoping that MacGruber, the first SNL movie based off the work of digital shorts masters The Lonely Island, would be different. Surely, given that the MacGruber skits are filmed, edited, and broadcast rather than interacted live, that would give MacGruber the edge over, say, It’s Pat or The Roxbury Guys.

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In some respects, MacGruber is a success. For one thing, it has a much better visual look than your average SNL movie, which is probably due to all the work director Jorma Taccone put in directing all those digital shorts. Then again, it’s an action movie, whereas most of the previous SNL movies have been straight comedies, so it should have more visual appeal.

MacGruber‘s main failing is in the script by Taccone, Will Forte (who also stars), and John Solomon, all of whom are involved in MacGruber‘s SNL digital shorts. It has funny moments, but much like SNL itself, there’s a lot more jokes that fail than there are jokes that are successful, despite the cast’s game attempt at milking the one joke that is Fake MacGyver.

Will Forte does his best, and really works his vaguely Richard Dean Anderson-y face and clothing, but the film’s few funny moments come not from Forte, but from the always game Kristen Wiig’s Vicki St. Elmo and Val Kilmer’s villainous Dieter Von Cunth.

Unfortunately, the real laughs are few and far between, and MacGruber‘s chuckles are too few for a movie of 99 minutes. The movie’s use of crudeness and vulgarity as a substitute for comedy is well attempted, but not entirely successful. 

However, if that’s the sort of thing you like, you’ll probably get more out of MacGruber’s creative use of celery than I did.

There’s only so much you can do with one joke, and aside from the constant background of 80s yacht rock in MacGruber’s car, there’s not much about the Gruber to make a movie from.

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US correspondent Ron Hogan put this review together using a copper wire, pliers, a bag of gravel, and string cheese. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.


2 out of 5