This is the sixth in a series of posts spotlighting the overlooked, underappreciated, and unfairly maligned movies of our time. Other films given the "In Defense Of" treatment so far include The Next Three Days, Multiplicity, Speed Racer, Meet Joe Black, and Alfie (2004).
BY MATT CAMPOBASSO, special guest contributor to Hammervision
Have you seen MacGruber? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I don’t blame you. Saturday Night Live sketches turned into movies haven’t been very good the past ten to fifteen years or so. With releases like It’s Pat, Blues Brothers 2000, Stuart Saves His Family, and Superstar, what could possibly motivate someone to want to check out MacGruber? The entire premise is based a series of short clips (parodying TV’s MacGyver) that gained a cult following starting in January of 2007. The entire premise of each and every sketch was that MacGruber would accidentally allow a bomb to go off because he lost focus on disarming it due to some arbitrary event also occurring in the scene. The stock market crash, his son’s sexuality, and a fear of aging all led to MacGruber’s premature demise. Each entry ended with the bomb going off and the title card flashing on the screen. Classic MacGruber. Surely this could not translate into a feature length film, let alone one with laughs.
On paper, I admit the film does not have a lot going for itself. Will Forte, a funny man, but hardly a leading man, in the title role. Directed by The Jorma Taccone, of Lonely Island fame, in his directorial debut. The poor quality of recent SNL films. The list goes on and on. Friends of mine that are big fans of the MacGruber sketches couldn’t even bring themselves to see the film. Well, I am here to set the record straight. This neglect has gone on far too long. Since its release in theaters in May of 2010, I have seen MacGruber at least five times straight through. I’ve caught bits and pieces of it dozens of other times. To put it simply, it is hilarious, well-written, well-acted, and contains strong comedic performances by Forte, Kristin Wiig (Bridesmaids, anyone?), Ryan Phillipe, and Val Kilmer as the big bad guy, Dieter Von Cunth. If that name alone doesn’t make you want to see this movie, you might as well stop reading right now. This film may not be highbrow comedy, but it is funny nonetheless. Very funny.
The entire story involves MacGruber coming out of retirement following the death of his wife (played in flashbacks and odd graveyard scenes by Maya Rudolph) at Cunth’s hands. Cunth is at it again, and the United States armed forces need him back to help recover a missile that Cunth stole from the U.S. government and plans to detonate somewhere in the U.S. It may sound like a formulaic 1980’s action film, but that is because it’s supposed to. The enjoyment here isn’t so much the overarching plot, but instead the almost constant laughs, the ridiculous dialogue, and the performances themselves. There are some very funny sight gags, including MacGruber carrying a detachable car stereo in scene after scene, but the real enjoyment comes in the form of the sharp and over-the-top dialogue and, more importantly, Forte’s deadpan delivery. Here are a few choice bits:
MacGruber: Looks like you're keeping your bod pretty tight.
Frank Korver: You're looking pretty good yourself.
MacGruber: Well, everday's a workout when you gotta carry around a 20 pound python in your jeans.
Frank Korver: You and your dick comments.
MacGruber: It's fun to say them.
Frank Korver: It's fun to hear them.
MacGruber: That's why I say them.
Frank Korver: And that's why I listen.
Or this one:
Col. James Faith: They were nice funerals.
MacGruber: Yeah. What did you think of my eulogies?
Col. James Faith: Very touching. I might have cut back on the F-words a little.
MacGruber: Well, they were fucking great guys. And this is a fucking asshole of a day.
Comedic gold. Classic MacGruber. Check it out. Please.