You can count the number of quality Saturday Night Live skit-inspired movies on the hand of a character from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
That’s why going into MacGruber I had the expectation to be underwhelmed and just a little disappointed.
Much like MacGruber, the SNL character who exists primarily as a parody of the classic television show MacGuyver, has a history of being blown away by bombs that his ineptitude prevents him from defusing, I was blown away by the skits’ feature-length film adaptation.
Will Forte stars as the title character, a former national hero who has inspired a legion of stories about his heroics — specifically his remarkable ability to rip a man’s throat out with his bare hands. Having faked his death after his wife’s murder at the hands of Dieter Von Cunth, a villainous arms dealer played by the deliciously diabolical Val Kilmer, MacGruber is content to live a solitary life at the monastery he adopted as his new home.
The Pentagon, though, has other plans for the hero after Cunth steals a nuclear bomb and MacGruber is the only man who can stop him.
Unfortunately, the years have been rough on MacGuber and the man who may or may not have been the world’s finest action hero has become shallow, absurdly stupid and a tad bit homophobic.
If MacGruber is going to get his shit together and stop Cunth from blowing Washington D.C. into smithereens, he’s going to need all the help he can get. Unfortunately, after blowing his team of highly-trained solders up in a car explosion, all he has is Vicki St. Elmo, a timid mouse of a sidekick played by Kristen Wiig and Lt. Dixon Piper, the film’s straight man and the only competent soldier, played by Ryan Phillippe. Unfortunately, MacGruber has a bad habit of putting St. Elmo into unnecessary danger and would rather punch Lt. Piper in the testicles then work with him.
Unlike some of the other SNL-inspired movies that exist as tepid exercises in mediocrity, MacGruber distinguishes itself by being very much a hard R-rated comedy. There are throats ripped, offers of oral sex between armed service men and threats to remove a man’s penis and shove it down his throat. There are two sweaty noisy sex scenes in the film that are perhaps the funniest sex scenes I have seen in the last fifteen years. And that’s just the tame stuff.
MacGruber is silly and more then a bit self-conscious in its parody but it is unbelievably funny. Director Jorma Tacconne and writers John Solomon and Will Forte took the basic idea of a MacGruber SNL skit, rubbed it in Elmer’s Glue and rolled it around in the cheesy ‘80s action movie section of your neighborhood Blockbuster Video.
There is unexplained steam in factories, wet floors in warehouses and a shirtless guy playing the saxophone. In other words, MacGruber is the perfect throwback to those terrible action movies you grew up watching — but seen through the eyes of a borderline-retarded, television-obsessed man-child.
MacGruber is a great film. It’s funny, clever and just a little bit subversive. In other words, it’s a perfect return-to-form for the greatness that used to be Saturday Night Live films.
The countdown for MacGruber’s theatrical release starts now and the anticipation is officially at red-alert.
Director: Jorma Tacconne
Inside Pulse — Movies will be on the ground at SXSW! For live coverage from the event, follow Robert Saucedo and Travis Leamons on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500 and @skipkassidy.
The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit www.sxsw.com/film.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.