After a 10 year silence, SNL is back in the theaters with Will Forte’s bomb defusing MacGruber. As soon as I saw the trailer I thought maybe they should have stayed quiet for a few more years- but I will give it a try. Spawned from a Saturday Night Live concept that spoof’s the 80’s MacGyver, MacGruber attempts to take the 3 minute sketch and stretch it out to 2 hours. It’s a pretty painful stretch too. It’s unfortunate considering the original sketches are pretty entertaining and the 80’s was never short on source material.
MacGruber starts with terrorist Deiter Von Cunth (played by a bloated Val Kilmer) stealing a nuclear missile for nefarious purposes. Out of desperation, the government recruits retired hero MacGruber to recover the missile and save the world. MacGruber assembles a team consisting of Vicky St Elmo (The awkward Kristin Wiig) whom he has a past with and new straight-laced recruit Lt Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe). Together they have to not only prove Cunth’s guilt but recover the missile before it causes an international incident. However, MacGruber’s core problem is not the weapon of mass destruction but something even more serious.
MacGruber worst enemy is poor writing. The script makes a solid attempt at being funny throughout. There are legitimate opportunities every few minutes that could have resulted in hilarity but it just couldn’t capitalize on the moment. About 30% of the time, the humor sparks a chuckle. For the other 70%, you can’t help but think “that joke would have been much funnier if they just said it this way…” written by Will Forte, it’s apparent that it would have been more consistent under a different writer(s). Will, stretching 3 minutes out to 2 hours is harder than it looks right?
Another ‘serious’ problem is a flaw in the basic premise of MacGruber as a hero. MacGruber is supposed to be a highly decorated, world renown, super-special agent for the government. As set up in the beginning, he is the ‘best of the best’ and a national hero. However, during the rest of the movie, he is a complete incompetent bafoon. He’s not only untalented but a liability by killing innocent team mates! What’s even more frustrating is that unlike his MacGyver counter-part, MacGruber does not build a single working device- zero! That IS his schtick right? They could have easily addressed his under-performance with a plot point but instead they just assume we are all idiots. I know you can’t think too deeply about an SNL comedy but I have to draw the line when it insults the intelligence of the audience.
Besides a couple of isolated scenes, MacGruber is a disappointing movie. It’s surprising that SNL chose it for the return to the big screen. If you are a HUGE fan of SNL then you might find it mildly entertaining. If not, watch the SNL 3 minute clips and save yourself 1 hour and 57 minutes.