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MacGruber (Jorma Taccone, 2010)


Yet another Saturday Night Live skit makes the transition to the big screen, this time to surprisingly entertaining results, in MacGruber. Parodying an admittedly easy target, namely the long-defunct television spy show MacGyver, MacGruber extends the original skitís one-joke premise into a sustained parody of the spy thrillerís predictable archetypes. With vulgar wit and sustained idiocy, it serves its company of comic talent well as a showcase of their abilities. Offering many quotable, stupid lines, and a few laugh out loud moments, it achieves more than the average contemporary studio screen comedy.


Thereís a more developed plot in MacGruber than in most parody films, which unexpectedly works to its advantage. Telling the story of a legendary agent (Will Forte) who returns to the field after being presumed dead for ten years, the film is a tightly scripted sendup of self-serious spy movies. This adherence to narrative ensures that the jokes come fast and frequently, and also provides enough structure to keep the movie from ever feeling like a hopelessly overextended skit. There are genuine character arcs and plot twists at play here. At the same time, however, because MacGruber is emulating one of the most brazenly commercial film genres it also means that thereís little spontaneity to be found during its runtime. Since so many comedies that rely upon improvisation instead of a tight script fall flat, though, maybe thatís a blessing.


Will Forteís title character is an anachronism that would have made no sense even ten years ago. His mullet and choice of music seem to be rooted in the mid-1980s, not 2000, but that oddity only adds to the hilarity here. The obvious fish out of water setup that is created with the transposition of the MacGyver character into modern days gets surprising mileage. Solid supporting turns from Ryan Phillippe (showing unexpectedly sharp comic timing) and Kristen Wiig add considerably to the overall level of laughs, as do a few running gags, like the ever-presence of MacGruberís car stereo.


Beyond raising the level of profanity to a level that would never be acceptable on SNL, MacGruber is not very ambitious. Thatís not much of a deficit for the film, though, because it revels in its potty humor and adolescent views on sex and masculinity. While it is far from a work of genius, MacGruber is effective product, designed with more skill than its premise probably warrants. It achieves wit in a realm where stupidity is too often deemed sufficient.



Jeremy Heilman