The 80s action movie genre is one that’s ripe for parody. In many cases it’s hard to watch many action films made in that period without a wry smile but their cheesiness is part of their charm. In that world, there’s nothing that can’t be improved by a training montage to the pounding motivational beat of Survivor.
MacGruber (Will Forte), a legendary hero of yesteryear, is living a hermetic existence in Ecuador having hung up his mullet and checked shirt for good. He’s tempted back into action by Colonel Faith (Powers Booth) and assembles a crack team (various WWF Superstars) to go up against the dastardly arch-nemesis (Val Kilmer) who’s stolen a nuclear warhead. When he accidentally blows up his team in a homemade C4 accident, he’s left with crack solider Piper (Ryan Phillipe) and side kick Vikki (Kristen Wiig) to thwart his old enemy’s plans.
MacGruber has its roots in a Saturday Night Live skit, a two minute burst of comedy which lampooned the classic Richard Dean Anderson series MacGyver and always ended with MacGruber failing to disarm a bomb due to his short attention span. Unfortunately it’s an idea that’s too thin to sustain itself for an hour and a half and the film frequently lapses into repetitive, vulgar and obvious humour with little appeal let alone hilarity.
There’s a persistent reliance on lowbrow sex jokes, scatological gags, cartoonish violence and a recurring joke which has the villain’s name one letter away from that very naughty C word that upset so many people in Kick Ass. It’s funny the first few times, but it’s trotted out with such alarming regularity that it eventually becomes yet more filler for a tired and predictable film.
Not only are jokes repeated endlessly but they’re telegraphed from miles away and you can frequently work out what the gag’s going to be way before the punch line. Often what’s in your head is often far funnier than what’s on screen. A film like this should never be boring but that’s exactly what it is: crude, repetitive, derivative and dull.
There are some amusing moments but they come from the supporting cast’s ability to maintain a straight face while MacGruber is making a fool of himself – Ryan Phillipe’s face of incredulity as MacGruber sticks celery up his bum is funnier than the act itself – but it isn’t enough to make up for the dozens of times where the attempts at comedy fall flat.
In the SNL skits he was simply easily distracted. Here MacGruber has been downgraded to a hapless boob, who doesn’t know what he’s doing; a sociopathic idiot with a penchant for throat ripping, puerile humour and lame jokes. MacGyver might be able to assemble ingenious invention from bits of junk; it’s a shame the same logic doesn’t apply to filmmaking.