Review: MacGruber

macgruber one sheetIt’s probably not a good sign to start a review by saying that the film wasn’t anywhere near as bad or as stupid as I was afraid it’d be, but that’s exactly how I felt after the end credits of the new Saturday Night Live spin-off MacGruber. Crude and sophomoric, it still had lots of laughs and a surprisingly polished appearance, coupled with amusingly over-the-top performances from some decent actors.

The story line is something or other about a nuclear missile, the X5, stolen by thuggish bad guys from a military convey in Siberia. Their mastermind?  The evil Dr. Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), who has nefarious plans to, bwahahaha, blow up the world!  Of course, in a parody film as crass as this 99 minute movie by first time director Jorma Taccone the story doesn’t really matter that much. It’s all about the sight gags and the one liners, and MacGruber doesn’t disappoint.
Will Forte is MacGruber, a retired special forces operative who previously served as an Army Ranger, Navy SEAL, Army Green Beret and was awarded 16 purple hearts, 3 Congressional Medals of Honor and more. Problem is, he’s a complete idiot and everything he gets involved with goes sideways and often results in innocent bystanders dying. A newspaper headline flashes by at the beginning of the film “MacGruber stops terrorist cell, 200 civilians casualties” and that’s about the sensibility of the entire film.
If you’ve seen any action films in the last decade, you’ll recognize cliche scenes and dialog that keeps the film moving along, even as some of the scenes are rather, um, indelicate. Still, I laughed quite a bit during the film, and, yes, cringed once or twice too.


In the first part of the movie, MacGruber pulls together a team of tough, hulking men to be part of his crack military force, his “dream team”, in a sequence that pays wry homage to The Dirty Dozen and any number of other “let’s reassemble the team for one last job” scenes. They don’t quite have the chance to be involved, so his second team is a former lover stuck in the 70s Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and a young officer Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe).

macgruber publicity still

Piper (Ryan Phillippe), MacGruber (Will Forte) and Vicki (Kristen Wiig) in “MacGruber”

The dialog throughout the film sounds exactly as you would expect, as if it’s written by a team of gag writers from a late night TV show. Example: 
Vicki (to MacGruber): “I thought you were dead!”
MacGruber: “So did I, but I’m not.”
In another scene, Lt. Piper commiserates with MacGruber, saying he appreciated the chance to work with him on a case:
Piper: “I appreciate working with you for the last few days, I’ve learned a lot.”
MacGruber: “You have?”
Piper: “All about what not to do.”
Their military liaison is Colonel James Faith (Powers Boothe), who keeps trying to boot MacGruber off the case of the missing nuclear weapon. At times, you can see Boothe has a hard time keeping a straight face, and we can only wonder what was going on behind the scenes.
Lest you think this is all family fare and a fun, silly comedy, I will warn you that there’s a reason this film has an “R” rating. There are more profanities than an Eddie Murphy standup routine, and the sexual references and, um, celery scenes are definitely not for the younger crowd. If there’s such a thing as a “beer movie” (as in “drink a few before you go to the theater”), then this is it.
A film like MacGruber is what I consider a guilty pleasure. It’s not great cinema, it’s not even something you’re going to watch more than once, and it has enough crude scenes that you’d be embarrassed to have your parents see it inadvertently, but as I said at the beginning, it was pretty darn funny and sarcastic. If that’s your thing, go for it!

2 comments on “Review: MacGruber

  1. Nail on the head, again, nail on the head, my friend! You and I don’t always see eye to eye on films, but on this one, I think we do. Went in expecting to be disappointed, came out not having been.

  2. Spot on review. It was impossible not to laugh at this movie. Yes, it was childish, but so is Saturday Night Live. I can’t believe this was as huge a flop in its 1st weekend as it was. What a shame! The fact that “Just Wright” made more money indicates the collapse of our society.

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