Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Crude and Sexual Content, Violence, Language and some Nudity
Directed by: Jorma Taccone
Written by: Jorma Taccone, Will Forte, John Solomon
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Powers Boothe, Val Kilmer, Maya Rudolph
Back in the golden age of parody films, Mel Brooks and Jerry Zucker were the ones to beat. Spoofs weren’t pathetic threads that pieced together out of pop-culture jokes and referenced every recent movie that could possibly be worked in. These films were downright hilarious comedies that simultaneously made fun of certain genre conventions while also being careful in constructing their own story (as familiar as they might seem). AIRPLANE, the HOT SHOTS series, the NAKED GUN trilogy and SPACEBALLS aren’t just products of their time. They are films that would wind up holding up and still be funny decades later. It really is a shame that MACGRUBER didn’t do well at the box office, because this is the kind of parody that has long been thought dead. This feature adaptation of the Saturday Night Live skit is juvenile and crass, but it’s also hilarious from start to finish!
A nuclear warhead has been stolen by vicious terrorist Dieter Von Cunth. Upon hearing the news, one man is contacted. One hero will emerge. This mysterious mullet-sporting man is known only as MacGruber and has a personal vendetta against Cunth. He’ll recruit a special team of operatives that include the young impressionable Piper and an old flame from his past, Vicki. Together they’ll have to put a stop to Cunth, who’s become a seemingly untouchable businessman, in order to save the world. Unfortunately, MacGruber is a loose-cannon, foul-mouthed, moron that constantly screws up in the face of danger. A whole lot of hilarity follows. Seriously, this movie had me (among all the other people I’ve wound up showing it to) cracking up from the opening shot until the credits sequence! MACGRUBER is the definition of an unsung gem!
Besides the brief references to the TV series MACGYVER (seen in MacGruber’s penchant for using homemade contraptions instead of guns and the fact that MacGruber’s name is a parody of MacGyver to begin with), this is a comedy that plays with the conventions of action movies themselves while being as totally ridiculous, over-the-top, and offensive as humanly possible. The material won’t win any awards, but it’s absolutely hysterical and that’s what a comedy of this kind should be aiming for. When I say that the laughs are non-stop, I’m not exaggerating either. You might be laughing so hard at one joke that you’ll either have to pause it to catch your breath or re-watch it to catch another comment or detail that you missed.
MACGRUBER is one of the few recent comedies where I’ve laughed so hard that my face hurt (and done so on multiple viewings)! The pace is extremely well done as well, never leaving time for the movie to drag or focusing too long on one of the very few gags that falls flat. This is one of those rare cases for a comedy that I’d recommend watching the Unrated version (it’s only 4 minutes longer) because the moments thrown back in are hilarious as well. As briefly mentioned, there are a couple of jokes that aren’t very funny. These come from an awkward Kristen Wiig, who serves as a hit-and-miss character here, but everyone else is overshadowing her in nearly every scene. Wiig is usually great in comedies, but here she has some successful moments and doesn’t quite hit the mark with others.
As far as the rest of the cast goes, everyone is clearly having a blast. Val Kilmer as Dieter Von Cunth is the best Kilmer performance in a solid decade. He’s a great hammy villain that seems to be incorporating all of the evil traits from every memorable action movie bad guy. Thus he offers a clear-headed menacing straight man for the hysterical force that is Will Forte as MacGruber. Forte has been seen in side roles in plenty of big comedies and most of his front-man performances haven’t been quite so good (e.g. THE BROTHERS SOLOMON), but he makes the movie work here. Working as a co-writer on the screenplay and portraying the mullet-sporting action hero himself, Forte knew exactly how scenes should play out!
MACGRUBER is a barrage of non-stop laughs. It’s devoid of class or intelligence, but that’s simply not the kind of comedy this was meant to be from the beginning. Filled with jokes from beginning to end (one running gag kept getting incorporated in ways that had me giggling every time I saw it), this fast-paced action movie parody is crude, crass, rude, gross, and (at points) downright cruel, but it’s all in the name of hilarity. It fully delivers on that mark. There are a couple of moments that aren’t nearly as funny as the rest surrounding them, but that’s the case with nearly every comedy. In an age of lame excuses for spoofs and parodies, MACGRUBER offers a beacon of hope that these kind of films can still be nearly perfected with the right people behind them. This is an underrated, overlooked comedy that deserves a large cult following. If you want to laugh, then absolutely dive right into MACGRUBER!