“MacGruber” is not a funny film, in no way, shape, or form. It’s the type of thing shown to Guantanamo Bay detainees to spiritually break them, to make them beg for mercy and tell authorities everything they’ve even remotely heard of. If anything, it surpasses “It’s Pat” as the worst Saturday Night Live script ever adapted to film.
“MacGruber” introduces us to the title character living a monastic life, years retired from the government. But now his former employers want him back — his archenemy Dieter Von Cunth has stolen a nuclear warhead and is intent on detonating it during the State of the Union Address. MacGruber demurs at first, but memories of how Dieter murdered his wife the day of their wedding still haunt him and he quickly comes around. Teaming up with the straight arrow Lt. Dixon Piper and his deceased wife’s sister, they set out to stop Dieter once and for all.
It’s easier to say what’s right with the film than what’s wrong, mainly because there’s so much wrong. Ryan Phillipe is a good sport as Lt. Piper; he plays the straight man for all the idiocy going on around him and there’s a lot of it going on. He keeps a stiff upper lip throughout the film, and goes above and beyond the call of duty. If he really was in the military, he’d deserve the Medal of Valor. As MacGruber’s commanding officer, Powers Boothe radiates authority and commands respect; he’s also smart enough to stay out of the film as often as possible.
The biggest problem with the film is that it’s based on brief SNL sketches, and there never was really enough there to inflate into a 90 minute film. But it happened anyway, and it’s excruciating. The direction by Jorma Taccone is sluggish and wanders all over the place like a lost kitten. Not that the script by Will Forte and John Solomon is any better; it’s a mirthless piece of work that produces laughs that are few and far between.The script telegraphs its moves so far in advance, there’s not even any suspense to keep things interesting. They should be glad they’re not running a kitchen, or Gordon Ramsey would be charging in with a machete demanding blood.
Val Kilmer slums it as Dieter, and he looks like he knows it. Despite the fact that he’s got the evil Euro trash look down, Kilmer smirks through every scene like he’s trying to get the director fired. Delivering his lines with contempt for the project, he struts around trying to convince himself his career is still in the same shape as it was when he was making “Batman Forever” and “The Saint”. If Kilmer is trying to get the director fired, Will Forte looks like he’s trying to entice the director to climb a skyscraper and leap off. He wastes this big screen role acting like a slightly precocious twelve year old. His low point is trying to distract an enemy with his pants down and a stick of celery stuck up his ass. (Funny, when Ryan Phillipe did it he pulled it off with a little more class).
It’s not to say that “MacGruber” shouldn’t have been release in a early summer slot, or even direct to video. It’s more of it should never have been released at all. This film isn’t a comedy, it’s a disaster that has as much laughs as a slasher flick. Time to tell the folks at SNL the days of “Wayne’s World” are long over, best stick to television.
Jorma Taccone (director) / Will Forte, John Solomon, Jorma Taccone (screenplay)
CAST: Will Forte … MacGruber
Kristen Wiig … Vicki St. Elmo
Ryan Phillippe … Lt. Dixon Piper
Val Kilmer … Dieter Von Cunth
Powers Boothe … Col. James Faith
Maya Rudolph … Casey
Rhys Coiro … Yerik Novikov