By: Addison Wylie
SNL skit turned feature film. Wait. Where are you going? Come back here. It’s ok. Everything is fine. Just listen to what I have to say.
Sure, SNL skits have had a rough time converting their short runtime to a feature length movie. We had It’s Pat. A movie I saw when I was really young and I remember laughing uncomfortably throughout. Now, after watching scenes from that movie at my current age, it’s pretty painful to watch. The other SNL films I’ve seen haven’t exactly been all that bad in my opinion. I thought A Night at the Roxbury was overrated at first but it has slowly grown on me, Wayne’s World was hilarious and offered a satirical view on television that hasn’t grown dated, and I found Superstar to be very underrated. I thought director Bruce McCulloch’s vision reminiscent to Todd Solondz’s work. I’ve been more impressed than distressed by SNL films and the streak continues with MacGruber. A skit that consisted of a McGyver knockoff attempting to “disable bombs” with various nearby debris only in the end to be blown to smithereens. Each skit lasts between 30 seconds to a minute. With its premise and extremely brief duration, MacGruber may look like a series of red flags. However, the minds behind the MacGruber movie up the ante and take things to a more explosive, funnier, and sophomoric level.
MacGruber, played by Will Forte, is an American Hero. After earning several metals and ranks, MacGruber was proven invincible while saving the world and looking good while he does it. However, after a life threatening incident at MacGruber’s wedding causing disarray in his life, MacGruber swears off fighting evil and saving the day and runs to the hills. However, when a nuclear warhead has been hijacked by ruthless villain Dieter Von Cunth, played by Val Kilmer, MacGruber is pulled out of retirement and put in a sticky situation. Does he stay hidden away from disaster and potential death or does he put on a courageous attitude, bring justice, and stop the man who ruined his life?
Part of the fun with MacGruber is that the movie never takes itself seriously; not one bit. It takes scenes that we’ve seen in dozens of mindless blockbuster action movies, completely on purpose, and adds its own spin of humor onto it. The script written by John Solomon, director Jorma Taccone, and star Will Forte write the movie as a parody of “Macho Men” action movies, namely ones that were released in the 1980’s, in the same way The Naked Gun was written as a parody of cop/detective-action movies. The three scriptwriters are completely aware of where the line lies between serious and ridiculous as well as the line between funny sophomoric jokes and childish waste. The actors play scenes with a straight face and sound off ridiculous lines or perform outrageous activities in order to break the tension which makes the humour punch out more. The dialogue is so cliched that it’s hilarious and by topping an incredibly juvenile joke on top makes the scene even more absurd. The scriptwriting shines but the cast are in on the joke too. The line readings by Forte, Kilmer, and co-star Kristen Wiig and Ryan Phillippe add to the entertainment. That said, even though the humour worked for me, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everyone. Humour is incredibly subjective and this movie is a perfect case for that. Some are going to view the film as being too immature and are going to be upset that no one in the production is taking the story seriously. It’s to those people I ask to stand back and watch some of the most recent action movies released. Movies such as Rambo and The Condemned. Movies such as these paved the way for a film like MacGruber to come along and say “look, movies. you guys are taking things way too seriously. Lighten up!”
Not only was I impressed with the movie’s balance of being smart and juvenile, I was extremely impressed with how the film looks and sounds. Taccone, coming from the comedy troupe The Lonely Island as well as being a writer on SNL, knows his action movies well and knows the tropes riddled throughout these films. By knowing these storytelling and filmmaking techniques, Taccone and cinematographer Brandon Trost are able to utilize different types of lighting and emulate shots and camera techniques you would see in a typical run-of-the-mill action movie and are able to make them seem more creative and distinct while poking fun at the cliches. You can see that the crew has put in a great deal of work in order to disguise itself as another product. Namely Matthew Compton, who arranged the score for the film. Compton’s done a great job creating booming music that adds more of an aggressive tone to the action scenes while keeping the movie light and never too heavy handed. Colour me throughly impressed.
MacGruber could’ve been a film that makes all the wrong steps throughout its feature film life making it an agonizing experience. Instead, the material is in the perfect hands and the cast and crew deliver a winner. With its quick thinking, its ability to balance immaturity and cleverness, as well as pitch-perfect hysterical performances from Forte as well as the supporting players, this little engine that could has perplexed me. MacGruber is sure to be one of the funniest films of 2010 and it is the best action movie parody since Team America: World Police.