MACGRUBER is Seriously Silly Fun

The explosive action comedy gets a new Blu-ray release

MacGruber is better than it has any right to be. In the long line of Saturday Night Live sketches making the jump from snack sized portions to a full course, MacGruber (the film) squeezes every bit of juice out of MacGruber (the sketch). Which, for people paying attention, is not a surprise. The creative team that hatched the idea on SNL (Will Forte, Jorma Taccone, and John Solomon) and perfected their MacGuyver spoof over a few years. In making the move to feature length, the trio have built something of a masterpiece by making another simple choice. Instead of replicating the short, chaotic nature of the sketch, they made an action movie that basked in the tropes of 80s and 90s movies like Lethal Weapon. As parody, it couldn’t be more spot on. As a comedy, the movie is endlessly inventive. It’s like the Scream of action comedies: a movie that stands on its own and as a love letter to the genre.

The typical MacGruber bit ends with MacGruber (Will Forte) bungling a situation and a bomb going off. But if the movie followed that pattern the whole thing wouldn’t last longer than the opening scene. To flesh things out, MacGruber is recruited to catch the dastardly Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer). MacGruber, a former Navy SEAL, Green Beret, and Army Ranger, just so happens to have unfinished business with Cunth, so MacGruber’s participation is a foregone conclusion. But, despite being a one man wrecking crew, MacGruber goes to work with old friend Vicki Gloria St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and new frenemy Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe), a dream team as it turns out. We already knew Wiig and Forte were great together from SNL, and their chemistry carries over. The surprise here is Phillippe, heretofore best known onscreen for his teen heartthrob run in the 90s and more dramatic work through the 2000s. Piper’s a hardass, which fits Phillippe’s onscreen persona well, and the movie gets a lot of mileage out of undercutting that image with the absolute silliest jokes imaginable.

One of the miracles of the script (by Taccone, Forte, and Solomon) is that MacGruber largely avoids being an episodic lark that only exists to set up the jokes. I mean, it is, to a degree. But the writing is propulsive and threads the needle between spoof, homage, and sincerity. That’s the key to MacGruber’s success: it’s an entertaining action movie that also happens to value laffs as much as kabooms. That’s not to slight the humor. From the repetitive joys of characters uttering “Cunth,” to massive setpieces, to absurd gems (like MacGruber’s knack for throat-ripping), MacGruber is a relentless joke machine.

I love revisiting movies when I think there’s a chance I’ll have a different reaction to my initial take. That’s why I was excited to check out this release from Mill Creek Entertainment. I tried MacGruber once before and turned it off halfway through. Nearly a decade later, I’m much more appreciative of the film’s efforts. But, I’m still left feeling like Mandy Moore’s laughter-deficient Scrubs character. Rather than guffawing through the movie, I just kept thinking to myself, “that’s pretty funny.” I think my issue is that I don’t have the nostalgia for 80s and 90s action movies that drives MacGruber. I don’t have similar issues with Hot Rod or Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, made with Taccone’s fellow Lonely Island cohorts Akiva Schaffer and Andy Samberg. All three are so specific in their targets they kind of create their own insular world. I’m hopeful that one day I’ll turn the corner on MacGruber and get as much out of it as the movie’s small but fervent fanbase.

The new disc from Mill Creek doesn’t have any special features, so this release is just for the people who want to own a nice looking HD version of the film and don’t already own the initial Blu-ray from a decade ago.

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