Monday, June 21, 2010

MacGruber: The Ultimate Tool

"If rippin throats gets that warhead back, I'll suck as many dicks as I as many throats out as I have to."

If you've not seen a MacGruber sketch on Saturday Night Live you're missing out. There have been a couple of dozen of them since the character first appeared in 2007. The premise is simplistic: Based on '80's TV Show MacGyver; MacGruber, played by Will Forte finds himself locked in a "Control Room" of an abandoned mine, airfield, a ship or some other location. Locked in there with him is either Maya Rudolph as Casey [until she was replaced by Kristen Wiig as Vicki], various guest stars of the week and of course a bomb with only a few seconds left on the timer. Vicki will exclaim in panic that there's only X-amount of seconds on the bomb timer and MacGruber will demand her or the guest to hand him objects in the room like a match, a rubber band, a key or chewing gum which we are to presume that MacGruber will expertly combine in some fashion to diffuse the bomb. This never happens however as he is distracted by a wealth of emotional issues triggered by manifestations or reminders of the problems in his life. These include his alcoholism, loosing his savings in the economic crisis, his plastic surgery addiction, his racism and his son's homosexuality. While exploring these though provoking themes, MacGruber looses focus and the bomb explodes.

As the MacGruber sketches last on average about one minute, it was obvious that the subject matter would have to be considerably fleshed out quite literally a hundred fold as the movie is 100 minutes long. Writers Forte, John Soloman and Jorma Taccone who write the SNL MacGruber sketches themselves penned an extraordinary tale of MacGruber returning to action after a long absence triggered by the death of his wife and former assistant Casey [a role reprised by Rudolph]. He teams up with new assistant Vicki [Wiig] and an Army hotshot Lt. Piper [Ryan Phillipe] after being coaxed out of a monastic "retirement" by his old C.O. Colonel Faith [Powers Boothe] in a scene parodying Rambo III.

The motivations of MacGruber are singularly defined by his desire for revenge against Dieter Von Cunth [a now-portly Val Kilmer] a man whom MacGruber is convinced killed Casey. The character undergoes a bizarre metamorphosis from a cowardly inept clown to a deeply mentally disturbed borderline psychotic individual which may not seem funny but in the context of this insane movie is not only perfectly normal but ultimately hilarious.

It is however easy to see why this movie is getting panned in the UK and didn't do a whole lot better in the U.S. either. Like Wayne's World and The Blues Brothers, it's difficult to market as a big-screen adventure and will probably do much better with its inevitable cult following like its predecessors. Its humour is quite frankly a mixture of teenage American Pie toilet humour, a parody of the most cheesy '80's movies and TV shows and the best freaky face that Forte can flex his incredibly limber facial muscles to produce. Its action is just as bizarre with some characters playing it as straight as the most intense Tony Scott movie coupled with the ridiculous bloodletting of Uwe Boll movies. As such its true target audience is an extremely narrow cross-section of movie-goers.

Thankfully, I'm in that cross section and this is one of the best action-comedies I've ever seen on screen. The action-comedy is a strange beast, it demands delivery of both action and comedy in near-equal measure and not step over the line of either genre least the other will suffer. What I mean is an action comedy can't have too much comedy or the action will suffer and vice versa as this would lead to the failure of the whole. First-time feature film director Jorma Taccone, responsible for directing may of the MacGruber sketches and more than 60 SNL Digital Shorts including "Jizz in my Pants" and the Emmy winning "Dick in a Box" never let either side of the action/comedy coin flip too far over and crafted an outstanding masterpiece of the genre... complete with throat-rips!

Final Verdict: Despite a slight over-use of crass toilet-humour, the movie is still side-splittingly hilarious and grotesquely violent in equal measure. A clear comedy winner. But I'm not sure I'll eat a celery stalk ever again...

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****1/2


Bruce Russell said...

As an American, I think I'd enjoy the realism of loud and crass behavior standing in for actual humor.

Civilian Overseer said...

I suspect that after this, the title of Val Kilmer's autobiography will be "Val, Where did it all go wrong?" ;)

Bruce, thats no way to talk of the nation that gave the world 30 Rock, the muppets and fraggle rock.

Constance said...

Then you must also see "She's Out of My League." What some may call "crass" and "toilet" humor, I simply refer to as "guy" humor. It stars one of the dudes from "Tropic Thunder." I'm pretty sure Mark hated it, but I could hardly breathe for laughing.