MacGruber is easily the best movie based on a Saturday Night Live skit in 15 years. But, considering the quality of recent sketch-to-screen projects, that sentence doesn’t quite do justice to how funny the movie is.
When bad guy Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) steals a nuclear warhead, Col. James Faith (a brilliantly cast Powers Boothe) pays a visit to MacGruber (Will Forte), the legendary soldier and demolitions expert who has devoted himself to peace ever since Cunth killed MacGruber’s bride on their wedding day. Driven by revenge, MacGruber heads back into action with former partner Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and young Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) to stop Cunth before he can detonate the weapon.
Since MacGruber is nothing more than a spoof of the TV action staple MacGyver, it makes sense that they would follow the story beats of your average Stallone/Norris/Schwarzenegger Reagan-era blockbuster. Director Jorma Taccone’s slavish loyalty to the tropes of ’80s action films keeps the movie humming along -- by following that well-worn structure, they’ve got a solid spine to support one outrageous, tasteless gag after another. It’s a smart artistic choice that pays off in surprisingly sly ways, especially since many of the jokes are so deliriously dumb.
Those who want to see how far Will Forte will take his horny, easily upset, none-too-bright explosives master will not be disappointed -- this is a comedy that earns its R rating early and often. A sequence where MacGruber has sex with Vicki -- and then with the ghost of his deceased wife -- scores the biggest laughs because it deftly recalls similar softcore scenes in movies like Top Gun before shocking us with MacGruber’s rather vocal lovemaking style.
Sure, not every gag is a home run, but because the filmmakers stick to the action-movie formula the movie never drags. There are moments that misfire, but the whole thing never loses momentum, which is amazing considering Taccone and company are stretching a 30-second joke into a 90-minute movie. MacGruber probably won’t achieve the same respect or success as the most beloved SNL adaptations, but odds are pretty good that if they wanted to give this character another spin the result would be much funnier than either Wayne’s World 2 or Blues Brothers 2000.
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