**** (out of 5)
May 21, 2010
Will Forte as MACGRUBER
Kristen Wiig as VICKI ST. ELMO
Ryan Phillippe as LT. DIXON PIPER
Val Kilmer as DIETER VON CUNTH
Powers Boothe as COL. JAMES FAITH
Studio: Rogue Pictures
Directed by: Jorma Taccone
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The thought that has been going through many people’s mind leading up to the release of “MacGruber” is whether it’s going to be better than most movies based on sketches from “Saturday Night Live.” If you list those films, you’ll find a lot of crap – from “Coneheads” to “Stuart Saves His Family.” Still, there are some nice gems in there, and not just the big hits “The Blues Brothers” and “Wayne’s World.” Let’s not forget the relatively funny film “It’s Pat.” (Well, maybe I’m in the minority on that thinking.)
So for “MacGruber” to be considered one of the best “Saturday Night Live” movies, it’s not that big of a stretch. Fortunately, it also helps that “MacGruber” is a funny-ass movie.
Simultaneously sending up the classic “MacGyver” television series and all those crappy 80s action films that played non-stop on HBO when I was a kid, “MacGruber” tells the story of the brilliant make-shift explosive expert MacGruber who has been in hiding for more than ten years after he was thought to have been killed. The U.S. government has brought him out of hiding to help take down the evil terrorist Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), who is planning on lighting up Washington D.C. with a stolen nuclear warhead.
The silly story is part of the reason this film works. It’s not a great story, but it’s completely in line with the aforementioned crappy 80s action flicks on HBO. It is the commitment to the film’s own internal joke that makes “MacGruber” work.
And it doesn’t hurt to have a solid R-rated sense of humor throughout. Amid all the f-bombs and inappropriate sexual reference (which work so well because they would have never made it past the late-night NBC censors) is a constant stream of butt humor. It’s fodder for a 12-year-old’s sense of humor, as long as that 12-year-old is now old enough to get into R-rated movies.
In short, it’s a perfect film for someone like me.
The making of a good R-rated send-up is to not make it a spoof, and “MacGruber” achieves this. Rather than just being joke after joke about action films with random pop-culture reference, “MacGruber” exists as its own little action film in its own right. It doesn’t try to be anything more than it is, and it’s not trying to revolutionize cinema.
Will Forte, whose only other memorable film was “The Brothers Solomon” (which was only memorable for how bad it was), may never make it into A-list status as a comedian or movie star, but his turn as MacGruber on the big screen works in its own context. But like any good comedy, it’s not just the star that makes the film. The film’s straight men, played by Ryan Phillippe as MacGruber’s young sidekick and Powers Booth as MacGruber’s Richard Crenna, sell the film and allow Forte to play his comedy big.
Kristen Wiig does a fine job alongside Forte as the lower-key love interest. She doesn’t steal the spotlight, but she gets her jokes into the film without a problem. And let’s not forget 80s star Val Kilmer as the crassly-named villain, chewing the scenery in his best take on a James Bond bad guy image.
“MacGruber” is not fine art, but it made me laugh in the most awkward R-rated sort of ways.