There is one word that can sum up the buzz surrounding the latest 'Saturday Night Live' spinoff flick, and that's "doubt." Based on the loosely-constructed farce of the 1980s 'MacGyver' series, MacGruber has proved to be a popular bit on the late-night variety show. Served up in 60-second chunks and full of retro laughs, the routine has worked more like a link between sketches than anything else. A modest $10 million budget and limited in storyline scope, the green light to turn MacGruber into a feature length film has been a curiosity to both industry insiders and fans alike.

On 'SNL', the scenario for each installment is always the same: MacGruber, with his female sidekick and episode host by his side, is trapped in a room that holds a ticking time bomb. Similar to the original MacGyver character, MacGruber uses any available apparatus to jimmy-up a solution to his troubles, as his cohorts pass over elastic bands, thumb tacks and tennis balls to help the cause. MacGruber typically gets distracted by the arguments and conversations happening as he works, exposing his ego, vanity and pride – and then the bomb goes off.

There is one word that can sum up the buzz surrounding the latest 'Saturday Night Live' spinoff flick, and that's "doubt." Based on the loosely-constructed farce of the 1980s 'MacGyver' series, MacGruber has proved to be a popular bit on the late-night variety show. Served up in 60-second chunks and full of retro laughs, the routine has worked more like a link between sketches than anything else. A modest $10 million budget and limited in storyline scope, the green light to turn MacGruber into a feature length film has been a curiosity to both industry insiders and fans alike.

On 'SNL', the scenario for each installment is always the same: MacGruber, with his female sidekick and episode host by his side, is trapped in a room that holds a ticking time bomb. Similar to the original MacGyver character, MacGruber uses any available apparatus to jimmy-up a solution to his troubles, as his cohorts pass over elastic bands, thumb tacks and tennis balls to help the cause. MacGruber typically gets distracted by the arguments and conversations happening as he works, exposing his ego, vanity and pride – and then the bomb goes off.

Despite its limitations on paper, the cast and crew have made some daring alterations for the feature film, building from the original blueprint. Will Forte makes his debut as a leading man in a motion picture, flanked by some solid 'SNL' cast members. Kristen Wiig plays MacGruber's partner, Vicki St. Elmo, and Maya Rudolph is in ghost form as his now-deceased wife. Springboarding off his success writing 'SNL's Digital Shorts alongside Andy Sandberg, Jorma Taccone takes his place in the director's chair.



The film opens with the world believing MacGruber is dead, as he hides in a spiritual getaway on the Ecuadorian countryside. The wonderful Powers Booth is Col. James Faith, an old military friend who has a big problem: a nuclear weapon is set to hit a US target. In homage to the 'Rambo' films, Faith comes after MacGruber in hopes of reinstating the hero, reminding the now-peaceful warrior that only he has the stuff for such a vital mission. A puffy Val Kilmer is the bad guy and nemesis to MacGruber, Dieter Van Cunth, a name that is spared no amount of usage in the film's script (i.e.: 'Let's go pound some Cunth!').

The opening 20 minutes, simply put, is comedy gold. An R-rating allows the tone to go a tad nastier than expected, and there are some big laughs as MacGruber shows off his dirty mouth and violent tendencies. Forte uses many of his popular 'SNL' characters to flesh out the role, giving us a hopeless hero that lives in the spirit of 'Get Smart', 'Naked Gun' or even 'Austin Powers'. One slickly-edited montage watches the assembly of his assault team, a who's who from the WWE, all of who are instantly blown up when MacGruber packs too many explosives into the group's vehicle.

Before long, Forte, Wiig and Ryan Phillippe (as Lt. Dixon Piper) become the focus, trying to track down Cunth in an attempt to stop the nuclear launch. The goofy dialogues and lofty tough-guy speeches do start to wear as the plot settles. The limitations of the film's budget show up in MacGruber's look, while lulls in the pacing, the recycling of jokes, and the endless supply of 80s memorabilia continues. Gory violence and several awkward, but not too funny, sex scenes with both Wiig and Rudolph weigh the film's goofiness down with directionless shock value.

By no means as dreadful as 'Blues Brothers 2', but lacking the popularity of a 'Wayne's World', 'MacGruber' lands somewhere in the middle. Propped up by its 'South Park' sensibilities, its big groans are met with some big laughs. Forte is as daring as Sacha Baron Cohen in his willingness to do unsavory things with an unsavory character. Things get a little bizarre when MacGruber uses nothing but a celery stick and his birthday suit to help accomplish a mission. He probably doesn't have as much charisma as Cohen, but there is something funny about that too. With so many talented 'SNL' alums not getting their chance to break out, whether it be Cheri Oteri or Chris Parnell, here's to hoping the 'funny weird' zaniness of Forte finds some legs with a justifiably doubtful public.
CATEGORIES Reviews