While the movie is less than brilliant and only moderately satisfying, Forte is consistently wonderful throughout.
MacGruber is pretty much what you would expect from the popular Saturday Night Live sketch in which Will Forte lampoons 80s television show MacGyver. Forte crafted his character as a completely incompetent and clueless goofball who blew himself up at the end of each sketch. The reason MacGruber works so well is Forte continues to play the character straight even though he has not one discernible skill aside from ripping out people’s throats.
In the movie, MacGruber (Forte) has gone into semi-retirement after the love of his life is murdered on their wedding day by Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer). Ten years later, he is pulled back into duty after Cunth comes into possession of a giant (and graphically phallic) nuclear warhead with plans to blow up Washington, D.C.
After his initial dream team of bad guy killers is accidentally blown up (in which MacGruber may or may not have had a part), MacGruber must put together another team to help him track down Cunth. His new team consists of rookie lieutenant Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig). The three begin to track down Cunth with little tact, foresight or planning, but that’s just how MacGruber likes it.
While the movie is less than brilliant and only moderately satisfying, Forte is consistently wonderful throughout. His dedication to his character justifies the movie’s ridiculous premise and absurd action sequences. Forte has long been one of Saturday Night Live’s most versatile and entertaining cast members, but until MacGruber he did not have a solid repetitive character with which people identified him. In MacGruber, Forte demonstrates that he is capable of carrying a feature film, even one as ludicrous as this one.
Credit must also be given to co-writer and director Jorma Taccone who, with Forte and John Solomon, was able to turn MacGruber simultaneously into a spoof of and homage to 1980s B action movies that usually starred someone like Chuck Norris. Taccone crafts the action montages with the utmost seriousness even as MacGruber is reaching for pieces of string and pushpins instead of guns or knives. True fans of that genre know that the only way to mock those movies is to treat the material as seriously as they did.
Wiig is hilarious, as always, and is a perfect counterpart to Forte because while Vicki is pretty sure MacGruber is an idiot she is too blinded by love to ever second guess him. Wiig supplies some of the movie’s funniest lines with her trademark deadpan delivery and blank stare as if she herself isn’t even sure if the joke is funny. While it’s nice to see Phillippe appearing in a movie that is quite different from his past work, he isn’t exactly playing against type here. He is still very serious and is the sole non-comedic performance. But, he does appear to be having fun with Forte and Wiig, which is more than can be said about any performance he’s given thus far in his career.
The filmmakers were smart to keep the running time under 90 minutes because, though MacGruber is funny and entertaining, a minute or two longer and the entire concept would abruptly shift from cute to obnoxious. | Matthew F. Newlin