Bottom Line: Not as funny as the trailer.
SNL-based movies are hit or miss — you can end up with Wayne’s World, or you could end up with The Ladies Man. For their latest attempt at the big screen, SNL handed the reins over to first-time director Jorma Taccone, one third of the Lonely Island. But MacGruber is nothing to jizz your pants over.
“He made a fucking movie,” boasts the theme song over the opening credits of the film. And yes, yes he did. But the question is: Why? As the minutes stretch on and the cast still hasn’t been blown up, it becomes apparent that MacGruber doesn’t have quite the staying power to handle feature-length.
The bad hair is bigger than ever before, but the plotline is simple: MacGruber (Will Forte) is called into action from his self-imposed exile to save the world from Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), who is hell-bent on knocking Washington D.C. over the head with a stolen nuclear missile. Our hero puts together a crack team of assistants and, when they’re promptly blown up, turns to his faithful assistant Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and Lieutenant Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe). The aim is vengeance: Von Cunth killed MacGruber’s fiancé (Maya Rudolf, the original MacGruber assistant).
Yet plot has never been a strong point of the MacGruber world. The sketches relied heavily on bombs going off mid-sentence, before MacGruber could get too annoying. There are only so many times you can giggle at the name Von Cunth, and MacGruber tries to exploit all of them. Most of the film feels pointless, and the plot is lost somewhere along the way.
The supporting cast desperately tries to salvage the wreckage, with minor success. Kristen Wiig shines in Vicki’s scene as the MacGruber look-alike, even while rolling around on the floor screaming in pain. She looks almost too good in her mullet. Forte is at his best during his dialogues with Lieutenant Piper. Their budding bromance provides some of the most honest laughs in the film. The insults are quick and dirty, but they don’t make you groan (mostly).
But those moments are not frequent enough. As soon as MacGruber almost becomes a likeable character, he goes and uses someone as a human shield. Too often he slips into a satirical caricature, one-sided and so overdramatic it surpasses amusing. At points, the film so closely mirrors the action movies it’s trying to parody, you forget they’re trying to be funny.
And like many of the latest series in parody films, MacGruber starts out with a mildly funny situation and milks it for five minutes after it stops being funny. When there is violence, it goes all out — blood spatters the camera, the actors, everywhere across the scene. The sheer number of characters who have their throats ripped out by a bare hand in the course of 90 minutes is astounding. At a certain point, you just want someone to get shot, because that would be easier to watch.
There’s ghost sex, too much body hair, a whole lot of blood and more nudity than you will ever need. When Vicki pulls a bullet out from MacGruber’s upper thigh with a pair of pliers, you can be sure they go for the close-up, with all the sound effects available. Jokes that might have inspired a chuckle the first time will make you groan the second or third time, and you may at points just cover your eyes.
Overall, MacGruber has its moments, but you might want to wait for the DVD release so you can fast forward through all of the naked MacGruber stomach hair.
Update 5/20/10 at 11:59 p.m.: The spelling of “affects” has been changed to “effects.” Thanks to commenter me for bringing the spelling error to our attention.
Update 7/25/10 at 9:56 a.m.: Spelling of Kristen Wiig’s name corrected. Thanks to commenter Whitney for point out the mistake.