20 June 2010

Movie Review: MacGruber


2010, 90mins, 15
Director: Jorma Taccone
Writer (s): Will Forte, John Solomon, Jorma Taccone
Cast includes: Will Forte, Val Kilmer, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph
UK Release Date: 18th June 2010

The phrase “based on an SNL sketch” doesn’t usually inspire much confidence, but “MacGruber” actually works well as a feature film, and with a running time of 90 minutes; the picture doesn’t overstay its welcome. The tone of humour utilized is crude, lewd but often very funny, and the film also gains some worth via a few well aimed digs at the cheesy action flicks of the eighties. Fans of bawdy lowbrow comedy should find a healthy amount to enjoy here, and for those appalled by scatological, vulgar or sexualized gags; why are you even reading this?

Following the jacking of a nuclear weapon by arms dealer Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), the US government seek an expert to help them resolve the matter. They turn to MacGruber (Will Forte), a man with more military honours than brain cells and a personal score to settle with Von Cunth. Ten years ago Von Cunth was responsible for the death of MacGruber’s fiancĂ© (Maya Rudolph) at the altar, and now America’s best agent is going to make him pay. Teaming up reluctantly with a young hotshot (Ryan Phillippe) and an old flame (Kristen Wiig), MacGruber is tasked with stopping Von Cunth using his illegally acquired missile, but if he fails the USA could be left to endure a long nuclear winter.

It takes a few scenes for the comedy in “MacGruber” to heat up, but when the script gets going, the laughs keep coming. The style of jesting is relentlessly juvenile, and those who can’t tolerate large portions of immaturity need not apply. That said, “MacGruber” provides enough good spirited and joyfully anarchic comedy to easily justify its existence, tapping into the same crazed and overblown vein of playfulness that made the original SNL skits so popular. The film balances amusing dialogue, irreverent improvisation and gloriously over the top slapstick to achieve its comedic ambitions, all wrapped within a surprisingly attractive looking frame courtesy of director Jorma Taccone. For a movie that only cost $10 million, “MacGruber” is a sharp and reasonably well photographed outing, even if the rare instances of CGI are decidedly less impressive.

As the maverick leading man Forte is fine, he’s no Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler but he carries the picture adequately. He shows an enthusiasm and commitment in the role that can’t be faulted, and whilst some of his character’s tendencies are overly creepy, he ultimately makes a robust village idiot. He bounces well off his straight man, in this case Ryan Phillippe. Phillippe maintains a stiff upper lip and a nice verbal rapport with Forte throughout the production, unveiling himself as fairly accomplished in this sort of part. Kristen Wiig gets some good lines and one breathtakingly funny scene in a coffee shop, but in a way the screenplay short-changes her. She plays second fiddle to Forte and Phillippe for most of the production; when debatably she’s the funniest individual amongst the trio. Val Kilmer is a disappointment as Von Cunth, he plays it in a very generic and surprisingly flat way, avoiding the hammy pastiche that the movie really demands from its villain. As a result he’s the biggest failing amongst the thespians, and in truth he looks ill at ease during many of his scenes.

The picture doesn’t really offer many proper action sequences (hence I would be unwilling to class it as an outright action comedy), “MacGruber” taking aim at the goofy blockbusters of the 80s’ through its garish musical score and knowingly ridiculous set-pieces. The screenplay is predictably light on plot (in fact the story is practically non-existent), but it warrants forgiveness thanks to the high quality of the belly laughs. “MacGruber” doesn’t approach it’s satire with much genuine originality, but it attacks the subject with conviction and a passion for the ludicrous, which is enough to ensure that it’s worth a watch. “MacGruber” is a rare SNL movie that works, and whilst it’s far from a masterpiece; it is guaranteed to do two things. The first is make you laugh. The second is to discourage you from eating celery for a long time.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2010


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