Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MacGruber (2010)

MacGruber is an impossible sort of film, the kind that should not even exist because, on paper, there's no way it could ever possibly work. MacGruber started as an oft-rejected idea from Saturday Night Live writer Jorma Taccone who, after pushing and pushing, finally got the sketch made after a Pepsi commercial featuring MacGruber was successful. Therefore, it was decided that the 90-second sketch starring Will Forte should be expanded into a 90-minute movie. Like I said, when put that way there's no real reason a studio executive would logically decide that this is a good idea.
But MacGruber does something kind of miraculous: it doesn't suck. In fact, given the low expectations, I would say that it is a rather good comedy. Now, in no way is it a perfect movie, or a milestone in cinematic comedy. There will be no Oscars, no Golden Globes, or such awards for this movie. However, it does manage to be a decent spoof film. This fact is the reason why the film is better than it should be: instead of stretching the sketch to movie length, MacGruber the film breaks away from MacGruber the sketch by becoming a spoof of the classic '80s genre of meat-headed action flicks, which produced such films as Die Hard and Commando.
MacGruber (Will Forte) is called back into duty to stop the evil Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer) from destroying Washington with a nuclear warhead. And with the help of his old assistant, Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig), and rookie soldier Lt. Dixon Pike (Ryan Phillippe), he sets out to do just that. Along the way, no action cliche goes unnoticed: the plot itself, the fact that Von Cunth is MacGruber's nemesis because he killed his wife on their wedding day, MacGruber being taken off the case multiple times. At its heart, it's just another lunk-headed action film, with everyone playing their roles straight, as if they were unaware that they were making a comedy.
Everyone, that is, except Forte. In all the seriousness, he plays his role as an absurdist take on the John McClanes of the world. He's inept, selfish, and clueless, a modern Don Quixote with a mullet. It's a testament to Forte's under-appreciated comedic talent that he's able to almost single-handedly carry the film as comedy, since honestly, he's the only one who creates any real laughs. Val Kilmer tries, but his best scenes are with Forte to play off of; Wiig and Maya Rudolph (as Forte's dead wife) are horrendously underused, and Phillippe is given little to do other than look shocked at things such as MacGruber's celery distraction (which is very well-played by Forte).
MacGruber's main problem is that it tries very nobly to find the funny in the ridiculousness of action movies, but doesn't bother to be ridiculous beyond MacGruber himself. A better movie would have had more exaggerated performances from everyone, bringing out the humor without devolving into parody; perhaps more camp would have helped. But it is a modest film, landing below the genius of Airplane! but above the atrocious "_____ Movie" series.

1 comment:

Simon said...

Everything lands above the "______ Movie"s.