Review: ‘MacGruber’

Instead of a “MacGyver” spoof featuring a competent do-it-yourself spy screwing up because he’s easily distracted, everything here that doesn’t feel ripped off from other spoofs plays like a middle school playground reenactment.

When a nuclear missile has been stolen by a criminal mastermind named Dieter (Val Kilmer), there’s only one man for the job: MacGruber (Will Forte), a highly trained and decorated specialist who was presumed dead ten years earlier. Teamed up with with an old acquaintance named Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and an Academy grad named Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) looking for a chance to prove himself, MacGruber must combat bad writing, toilet humor, and nudity involving vegetables to pad a three-minute SNL skit into a ten million dollar, ninety-minute feature.

There’s a formula at work here. About once every fifteen minutes or so, there’s about five seconds of actual humor or borderline hilarity before having to wait another fifteen minutes. Under that assumption, that’s about thirty seconds out of ninety minutes worth watching the film for. Interestingly, it’s also the same amount of time as a normal “MacGruber” skit on Saturday Night Live. With the freedom of an R-rating, couldn’t the writers have come up with something more entertaining, or is this the last nail in the Lorne Michael’s skit-to-film pipeline? Sadly, with such a low price tag, it’s unlikely this is the last time theaters will have to play host to enduring this kind of schlock.

There are a few grin-worthy moments peppered throughout the film. MacGruber lives a bit in the past, so his prized pull-out Blaupunkt stereo is with him every time he gets out of the car. Then there’s a sort of OCD obsession with a guy who cut him off. Finally, with nothing else to prop up this character with, there are the outrageous claims of how much MacGruber enjoys “throat ripping.” All of this culminates, of course, into the classic “diffuse the counting down time bomb” scenario, but even that falls short as it always ended on television with everyone dying horribly in a fireball.

Aside from SNL alumni in the cast, the two saddest players involved are Ryan Phillippe and Val Kilmer. Ryan is tasked with playing straight man to Forte’s hi-jinks, but it’s often hard to tell if Ryan’s bursts of anger are directed at the character, the actor, or his agent for signing off on this (fortunately, he won’t have to worry about many people actually seeing it.) Kilmer, on the other hand, wallows in his villainy and manages to steal his scenes while just being entertaining enough to forgive him. As for the rest of this compost heap, couldn’t all of this money and effort been directed to any better idea than this?

(a half skull recommendation out of four)

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