Making the transition from Saturday Night Live skit to full feature film star has been a difficult road even for some of SNL’s best loved characters, generally the result has been limited box office appeal, but instant cult classic, e.g. A Night At The Roxbury. But will this be the case for MacGruber – Real America hero, explosives expert, skilled lover?
The action kicks off in Siberia where some (presumed) Russian men are under attack. A slicked up Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) arrives on the scene and commandeers an X5 nuclear warhead from our unshaven subtitled friends. We know this is bad from the evil look in his eye, and the overly dramatic forebonding soundtrack. But who can you turn to when nuclear weapons are in the hands of a super-rich rogue? The UN? NATO? No, MacGruber!!!
Unfortunately, MacGruber (Will Forte) is laying low in Ecuador. After years of serving his country and being decorated with a ridiculous amount of awards and military accolades, his life cam to a grinding halt when the evil Dr. Cunth used a bomb in a bible to blow up MacGruber‘s wedding ceremony to his beloved Casey. But a crisis is at hand, so the Pentagon send Col. James Faith (Powers Boothe) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillipe) to bring MacGruber out of hiding (as far as everyone knows, MacGruber died in the explosion). Macgruber is reluctant to leave his idyllic Ecuadorian abode, but when he finds out wife-murderer Cunth is back, he is out for revenge and will stop at nothing to prevent the evil Cunth from getting his hands on the warhead activation pass-codes. There is a slight problem though, in the 10 years MacGruber has been ‘dead’ the ‘game has changed’ and Cunth has become a prominent businessman and influential political donor, so some tact is required in his apprehension. Tact is not MacGruber‘s strong point – he’s not a diplomat, he specialises in ‘kickin’ ass and rippin’ throats’!
Resisting the Col.’s suggestion that Dixon be his second in command for the mission, MacGruber rounds up his old gang (who all appear to be professional wrestlers), and is ready to take on Cunth and his goons. At least he is until his homemade explosives blow up his van killing his entire team. After a hilarious breakdown following his dismissal from the case, MacGruber convinces Lt. Piper to save the mission and join his team. They are quickly joined by Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) – setting up a potential MacGruber love interest (eew) – and our gang of three get to work!
Playing like a live action Team America: World Police, MacGruber is probably a bit of an acquired taste. It is a parody of TV shows like MacGyver and the so the comedy is very specifically mocking that whole genre of 80s cops and action heroes – he even has a mullet! On the whole the humour is quite juvenile, which is to be expected with this kind of movie – talk of ‘upper deckers’ and naked old lady painting will raise a few chuckles. There are also some genuinely funny set pieces like the coffee shop stakeout, ghost humping, an uncomfortably funny sex scene, and a rather inventive use of celery (not the same scene!). As it’s often the case it’s the sidekicks suffering the ineptitude of their leader that come off best in comedy, this is true of Ryan Phillippe and Kristen Wiig; Ryan cutting his comedic chops with his recent hosting of SNL, and Kristen adding to her recent run of successes with Date Night and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Overall it’s not quite up there with Superstar or Night At The Roxbury in my books but it kept me laughing – and it has a funny montage, every comedy should have a montage!