As I was chatting with my friend Kara last Friday afternoon, she mentioned she and her fiancee were planning to grab dinner and catch the latest in the growing line of Saturday Night Live (SNL) parody skits-turned-feature-film-adaptations; MacGruber. Admittedly quite aware of the expected repercussions of a flick like this, I quickly disavowed all knowledge and reason and happily agreed (I knew my husband would be thrilled at the invitation and the chance to see it as we'd both admittedly enjoying the brief trailers we'd seen in the theatres over the course of several weeks).
For those of you who do not pride (?) yourselves on being SNL fans, I will just say that of all of the original skits (and characters) SNL has created (Superstar, the Ladies Man, Night at the Roxbury, the Blues Brothers, and Waynes World 1 and 2, to name a few), MacGruber ranks up there as one of the decidedly better adaptations. Will Forte's, what we will classify as "interpretation," of the 80's genius-problem-solving-creative-with-any-everyday-tool-or-device "MacGyver" is actually quite funny and lends itself to some serious belly-laughs.
Based on the 80's successful television program of a similar name, MacGruber tells the story of an American hero who has earned the rank of Green Beret, Navy SEAL, and Army Ranger, 16 purple hearts, 3 Congressional Medals of Honor, and 7 presidential medals of bravery, who comes out (following the horrendously violent, blood-spattered, death of his fiancee) to face his sworn enemy and life-long nemesis, Deiter Von Cunth (yes, you read that correctly) expertly played by Val Kilmer (who, as my husband pointed out, after going what can be classified as certifiably insane, moving his family out to the sticks and taking them completely off the grid, is apparently making a come back in his career).
In the aftermath of his fiancee's death, we find MacGruber much changed, sporting long hair and what looks to be Buddhist monk attire. Ten years since the dreadful events of his wedding day, he has sworn off violence and espouses a commitment to pacifism. However, this is short-lived. Upon hearing Von Cunth has attained a deadly nuclear weapon and is henceforth threatening to destroy the earth (or at least a big city or a lot of people), MacGruber buoyantly bounces back, cuts his hair, throws on his favorite vest, flannel shirt, and trusty watch, and joins with the expert stylings of Lt. Dixon Piper (another surprise casting role, played by Ryan Phillippe) and Vicki St. Elmo (played by Kristen Wiig).
Of course, as this is clearly a farce our hero proceeds to make mistake, after mistake, after frustratingly hilarious, mistake. As the film progresses we see his efforts to fashion a grenade out of a few household items continuously disappoint, leaving Lt. Dixon Piper with no choice but to use his (as MacGruber deems) "barbaric" guns to take down the assorted goons fighting with Von Cunth.
Will Forte does a great job portraying MacGruber, by all accounts a complete bumbling idiot who takes himself extremely seriously. His characterization is reminiscent of someone envisioned by a former SNL cast member, Will Ferrell (think Ron Jeremy in Anchor Man: The Legend of Ron Burgundy). Only time will tell if his career leads to similar commercial success, but from the looks of his resume he is presently working on two more feature films, played the role of Paul on Tina Fey's (another SNL alumna) 30 Rock, and has joined forces with Ferrel already on his website, Funny or Die.
Aside from MacGruber's absurd actions, the best elements of the film center on the assorted 80's paraphernalia, trends, fads, hair styles (check out Vicki St. Elmo's feathered style), and fashion. The worst (if you can classify them as such) are the truly, ridiculously, bloody/violent scenes of explosions, burn victims, and ultimately, death as well as the more crass humor ("potty" humor and the like). MacGruber is not for the faint of heart (or the easily offended).
Ryan Phillippe as Lt. Dixon Piper is an odd choice for this role (recent roles include Flags of Our Fathers, Crash, and Stop-Loss), but he seems to make it work and we get to see a side we normally do not see of him; a comedic one. He deftly plays the role straight; not wavering in his portrayal of a "serious" military soldier, but we cannot help but find his reactions and eventual acceptance of MacGruber's absurdity both endearing and laugh-out-loud funny.
Kristen Wiig, as Vicki St. Elmo also brings a bit of talent to the film. Similar to MacGruber, Vicki St. Elmo also reminds this reviewer of a character in Will Ferrell's farce; Anchorman, female reporter Veronic Corningstone (it could definitely be the feathered hair and pantsuits!). Another SNL cast member and a relative newcomer to the big screen, Wiig is starting to gather some notice, recently appearing in the previously review Date Night and lending her voice to the upcoming Steve Carell animated feature, Despicable Me.
Those looking for a laugh (albeit a cheap one) should enjoy MacGruber, as will fans of the original MacGyver; though die hard fans of the latter may be better off skipping this one and sitting home watching DVDs of the original in the comfort of their own homes.
The Bee Charmer Review Rating: C+