Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Movie Review: MacGruber

MacGruber **
Directed by:
Jorma Taccone.
Written By: Will Forte & John Solomon & Jorma Taccone.
Starring: Will Forte (MacGruber), Kristen Wiig (Vicki St. Elmo), Ryan Phillippe (Lt. Dixon Piper), Val Kilmer (Dieter Von Cunth), Powers Boothe (Col. James Faith), Maya Rudolph (Casey), Rhys Coiro (Yerik Novikov), Andy Mackenzie (Hoss Bender), Jasper Cole (Zeke Pleshette), Timothy V. Murphy (Constantine), Kevin Skousen (Senator Garver).

If you have seen the previews of MacGruber, or at least the recurring sketches on Saturday Night Live, then you don’t need me to tell you that the movie is stupid. But I don’t necessarily think that being stupid is a bad thing for a movie comedy. There is a difference between smart stupid comedy, and just plain stupid. At its best, MacGruber is the former - an occasionally hilarious satire and spoof on the cheesy MacGyver TV series, and action movies of the 1980s in general. The film has its share of inspired moments, but more often than not, it resorts to the just plain stupid. So while I wouldn’t say I hated MacGruber, I cannot really say I liked it either.

MacGruber (Will Forte) is a former military special ops officer who has spent the last decade hiding out in Peru after the evil Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) murdered his wife on their wedding day. But now Von Cunth is back - having acquired a nuclear weapon from the former Soviet Union and smuggled it into America in some sort of evil, diabolical scheme for world domination. It is up to MacGruber to stop him. He assembles a team that quickly gets killed, and ends up being stuck with his old friend Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and young military man Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe). MacGruber makes ever mistake possible in the investigation, but still somehow gets closer and closer to Von Cunth.

Forte is good at playing MacGruber as a completely delusional alpha male. He delivers his lines completely seriously, and it’s only because they are just slightly more ridiculous than normal than they seem funny. Wiig is good as MacGruber’s old friend who is actually in love with him, and two play the game of flirting without committing until later. Phillippe is essentially the straight man setting these two veteran comedians up well. And Kilmer is having a hell of a lot of fun as Von Cunth.

As I mentioned, there are several inspired moments in the movie. In fact, there are hardly any extended segments in the movie that where I didn’t at least smile. But too often, the movie resorts to cheap humor. Dick jokes, sex jokes, scenes where put celery up their ass and moments that just don’t work. Too many jokes simply fall flat.
Like most SNL movies, MacGruber ultimately fails because what works in a five minute sketch (and in the case of MacGruber, five minutes is longer than any one sketch) doesn’t work when extended into feature length. As such, the filmmakers have to put in a lot of filler to make the film work. MacGruber isn’t a horrible movie. There are laughs in it. But there just doesn’t seem to be any real reason for the movie to exist.

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