MacGruber. 99 mins. R. Directed by Jorma Taccone. Written by Will Forte & John Solomon & Jorma Taccone. Starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillipe, Powers Boothe, and Val Kilmer.
It's a shame that people are dismissing MacGruber so instantly upon hearing of it. Yes, movies based on SNL characters typically suck (It's Pat, anyone?), and yes - the MacGruber sketches on SNL hardly seem like adaptable material. But, to their credit, screenwriters Will Forte, John Solomon and The Lonely Island's Jorma Taccone know that. Rather than stretch the sketch into feature length, they start from scratch - taking the MacGruber character and plopping him right into a standard action movie plot. Freed from the shackles of broadcast censors, the filmmakers embrace their R-rating and deliver one of the most crude, juvenile, and frequently hilarious movies of the year. Even when it's not funny (and there are dull spots), MacGruber the movie works as a silly homage to '80s action movies.
Forte plays the titular MacGruber - a top-flight hero and makeshift weapon maker - brought out of hiding to take down the evil Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer - and yes, that's really his character's name) before he destroys the world with a stolen nuclear weapon. The rivalry between the two is intensely personal, as Von Cunth killed MacGruber's bride on the day of their wedding. To stop him, MacGruber assembles the finest team of military and tough guy warriors around, and after accidentally blowing them up, is stuck with Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig - surprisingly unfunny) and rookie officer, Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe - a superb straight man) to finish the job.
That's the set-up, and though there's slight comedic deviations, the movie mostly sticks with it. Taccone also directs and he displays a keen, knowing eye behind the camera. If the mark was '80s action, then Taccone hits the bullseye. There are a number of standout sequences early on - a montage of MacGruber assembling his team is particularly spot-on, each recruit greeted with a big-fisted handshake while a rockin' '80s tune plays on the soundtrack. I also liked the sex scene between MacGruber and Vicki midway through. It starts out innocent enough (shades of The Room spring to mind), but, thanks to Forte's comic thrusting, soon turns into the funniest sex scene I've seen since the puppets got it on in Team America: World Police.
If you're not a fan of '80s action flicks starring Stallone and Schwarzenegger, or the Lethal Weapon series, you'll probably be disappointed with MacGruber. Like I said, it's not consistently funny and it is awfully juvenile (dick jokes and f-bombs abound). For my money though, there are enough laughs, clever running gags, and fun winks to '80s action classics to make this worth seeing. Twice. Which I did.