Have you ever heard a joke that was so stupid, so utterly ridiculous, so shamelessly juvenile that you couldn’t help but laugh at it? Well dear reader, I present to you MacGruber, an hour and a half long example of exactly that. Arising from a short Saturday Night Live sketch as a parody of MacGyver, MacGruber is unapologetic in its crassness and determined to make you laugh, however shameful you may feel afterwards for doing so.
Breaking the confines of that damned square room where the door won’t open and an explosion is always imminent, this film takes MacGruber (Will Forte) out into the open to stop evil mastermind Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) from destroying Washington DC with a nuclear warhead. To aid him in his task, he recruits Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) who go along with his plans, no matter how absurd they may get.
MacGruber is the very definition of immature. Its humor is childish, crude, gross and maybe even a little bit homophobic. These are the types of jokes that many people would scoff at—excretory, urinary and sexual jokes to name a few—but they are delivered with such tenacity that one can’t help but find their inner child and chuckle along with it.
It’s a sporadic picture to be sure—laughs come here, laughs go there—but there are a number of times where you’ll laugh so hard you won’t be able to breathe. Unfortunately, when the jokes fail, they fail big. Due to its puerile sense of humor, the film unwisely thinks using four letter words liberally is funny. It’s not. The act of using them isn’t what brings laughs, but rather how you use them. It sometimes seemed like this movie didn’t understand that and hinged too much on assuming the audience would snicker simply because they were there.
If you check IMDb before heading into the movie, you’ll expect this given the names of the characters (Cunth is usually pronounced with a silent “H”), but what’s really disappointing is that MacGruber is ripe for parody. Outside of the title, however, it rarely capitalizes on it. Instead, it felt like the filmmakers watched every action movie of the last thirty years and then simply mimicked them by plopping their character into similar situations. For instance, MacGruber has gone into retirement at the beginning of the picture and the government is begging him to help one last time. Great, but where’s the joke there? Simply recreating the formula of an action movie isn’t enough. You have to do something with it.
“Smart” is a word that will never be used to describe it, but MacGruber is fun to watch and the performances are fantastic. The writing is all over the place (let’s face it, a 13 year old could write this thing), but it’s the delivery that makes it work. Will Forte is excellent in the title role, Kristen Wiig is delightful as usual and Val Kilmer revives his career with spot on comedic timing.
Hesitance is understandable given the poor track record of Saturday Night Live movies, and it doesn’t even come close to reaching the greatness of Wayne’s World or The Blues Brothers, but MacGruber is a step in the right direction and finds itself on the positive end of that short list.
MacGruber receives 3/5