Rated R for Strong Crude and Sexual Content, Violence, Language, and Some Nudity
Starring: Will Forte, Ryan Phillippe, Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer
Writers: Will Forte/John Solomon/Jorma Taccone
Director: Jorma Taccone
Saturday Night Live movies are a mixed bag. Some are really good (Wayne’s World, The Blues Brothers), some are passable (A Night at the Roxbury), and some are…well, some of them are It’s Pat. The latest SNL movie, MacGruber, is based off a two minute (or shorter) running sketch involving the title character trying to diffuse a bomb and managing to always fail and get blown up due to some issue or another. In essence, not exactly a sketch that screams depth. However, MacGruber uses this to its advantage and creates a raunchy R-rated comedy that is dirty, vulgar, and at times, intensely dark.
The movie follows Will Forte as MacGruber, who is brought out of retirement/fake death by his former commander, Col. James Faith (Powers Boothe). It turns out that MacGruber’s sworn enemy, Dieter Van Cunth (Val Kilmer), has stolen a nuclear warhead and is planning to do some dastardly action movie villain-like things with it. It is up to MacGruber to stop him, but he is not alone; after the death of his first team (featuring WWE wrestlers Chris Jericho, MVP, Mark Henry, and The Great Khali), he is joined by young upstart Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and old accomplice Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig). Unfortunately for Piper, Elmo, and the United States as a whole…MacGruber’s reputation as a badass war hero is a bit on the exaggerated side.
MacGruber has a bunch of Purple Hearts, a bunch of Medals of Honor, and served overseas on numerous occasions (twice during Desert Storm…and if you laughed at that, then good you got it). However, his methods are unorthadox; instead of laying waste to bad guys with guns, he prefers to create his own weapons out of everyday materials like tennis balls and gasoline, which tend to backfire more than work. He also has a penchant for throat ripping, literally ripping the throat out of an unsuspecting enemy. While this sounds like something a badass would do, his idea of a diversion consists of walking around naked with a celery stick up his ass and when faced with an issue, he is perfectly willing to suck whoever he has to in order to get his way out of it (that’s a running gag). In short, MacGruber may have the swagger and machismo of an 80′s action hero (stealth is for wusses, he prefers to go right at the bad guy!), he lacks the talent or the brains to actually complete the whole package (he gets constantly beat up by said bad guy’s henchmen).
Forte knows the character in and out, and co-wrote the screenplay, so he is great as the clueless and kind of creepy MacGruber. He talks in a slight Dark Knight-style raspy voice, and dispenses with the F word like it’s nothing. I’ve never been a fan of Forte for some reason, but he was good enough here to make me actually care about what he does next on the big screen (although judging from the 4.1 million take of this movie over the weekend, it probably won’t be a sequel). Phillippe plays a good straight man, and gets some time to shine by shoving MacGruber’s stupidity in his face and delivering a few jokes in a Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black kind of way. Wiig, as the third member and love interest, is okay and everything but wasn’t particularly good. Outside of a few scenes where she is used as a decoy, she isn’t give much to do other than swoon and to be captured. Wiig supposedly has comedic talent…I just have yet to see it. Maybe that’s just me though.
As a wrestling fan, I enjoyed seeing the WWE stars in their brief time on screen. Only Jericho gets to say anything, but his exchange with Forte about “dick comments” was one of the funniest bits of MacGruber. The Big Show, who plays a rejected member of the team (which can be misconstrued as homophobic by easily offended people), shows off his comedic chops in a brief couple of scenes. If he wasn’t so tall, he probably could have a legitimate comedic career in the movies. Val Kilmer, as the main villain, finally does something worth watching. For the most part, he is your generic action villain with a sweet ponytail to boot. However, he does get some good lines and his confrontations with MacGruber were hilarious.
MacGruber is a mixed bag when it comes to the humor. It goes from vulgar, to gross out, to over the top, to dark all within its 99 minute runtime. There is a lot of swearing in this movie, used for comedic effect, and while I was laughing hard at the dirty jokes, I couldn’t help but think in the back of my mind that this was another one of those movies that benefited from swearing. If this had been PG-13, it would not nearly have been as funny, meaning the humor relied on its rating to get it through. MacGruber as a character is over the top, and his throat ripping is both funny and over the top violent (in a good way). There is also some dark humor sprinkled in (MacGruber’s telling of why he and Cunth are enemies is funny…and at the same time, a little off-putting). The funniest scenes of MacGruber involve sex. Forte’s noises, motions, and random words during these acts had me in tears. TEARS.
At the same time, some of the jokes missed their target. With a last name like Cunth, you already can tell what kind of jokes will be made from that, and it is a really unfunny gag. Also, the 99 minute runtime feels like way too long, and MacGruber felt like it was padded up in order to make it full length. If it had been a short and sweet 80 minutes, it would have flowed a lot better.
Still, MacGruber is an excellent R-rated comedy, filled with some funny vulgar moments and some fun over the top action. The cast does a good job, but it suffers from some pacing issues and too much reliance on its R-rating to be funny. If you like your humor vulgar and off-putting, MacGruber is definitely for you. It is quite an entertaining ride…and who doesn’t like watching a man making life saving devices out of household materials?