MacGruber, the comedy that dares to find laughs in bombs, opens today. It's based on an SNL sketch in which a parody of a 1980s action hero (Will Forte), complete with mullet, tries to dismantle a bomb, and unfortunately succumbs to a last-second distraction. In the film, he presumably gets to last a bit longer than 3 minutes. In any event, it got me thinking about all the other flat-out comedies that include heavy artillery as part of their humor.
1. Hot Fuzz (2007, Edgar Wright)
Based on The Wicker Man and paying homage to Point Break and Bad Boys II, the hilarious cop spoof Hot Fuzz puts them all to shame with its unbelievable final third, an astonishing series of shootouts, chases, fights, leaps, sprints, and -- of course -- one-liners. Wright delivers it all with exactly the right mix of deadpan, dazzle, clarity, and parody. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost co-star as the buddy cops who aren't afraid to bond like men.
2. Pineapple Express (2008, David Gordon Green)
One of the greatest stoner comedies ever made should probably have settled for a, like, laid-back finale. You know? But somehow the spectacular gang war at the film's climax perfectly mixed with the sunny stupor, all without killing the buzz. Seth Rogen co-wrote the screenplay and stars as a perpetually stoned process server who finds himself caught in the middle of a gang war with his friendly neighborhood drug dealer (James Franco).
3. Tropic Thunder (2008, Ben Stiller)
Tropic Thunder is more of an across-the-board parody than it is a movie with a spectacular shoot-out, but it does have its fair share of heavy artillery and explosions, including some (fake) severed limbs. Heroes Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Jay Baruchel, and Brandon T. Jackson learn brotherhood and manhood along with the proper use of their weapons. I'm not sure, but I would probably classify Tom Cruise's movie executive as a deadly weapon as well.
4. Hot Shots! Part Deux (1994, Jim Abrahams)
This was the original mulleted action hero parody. In the first film, Charlie Sheen's character Topper Harley essentially riffed on the clean-cut Tom Cruise hero from Top Gun, and here he's Rambo, firing untold rounds of ammo, mounts of arrows, and even one frightened chicken.
5. Team America: World Police (2004, Trey Parker)
Everyone probably remembers this movie for the astonishing puppet sex scene, but strings or no strings these guys carry some amazing firepower. Not to mention that, since the movie is entirely made up of miniature sets, it's free to blow up anything and everything, with no consequences and minimal cleanup.
6. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997, George Armitage)
Competing hitmen John Cusack and Dan Aykroyd first pull guns on each other over breakfast. That's nothing compared to the movie's climax, in which the characters seem more interested in riddling a potential target's house with thousands of bullet holes. I'll always love Aykroyd's twin, tiny pistols, kept up his sleeves; he empties both of them in one single shot, grinning like a madman, and fails to hit anything.
7. Dr. Strangelove (1964, Stanley Kubrick)
How could I not include the most famous comedy movie bomb of all time? (Not a box office flop -- an actual bomb.) Aside from the brilliant three-part performance by Peter Sellers, the equally funny ones by George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden, all that classic dialogue, the deadpan humor, those striking black-and-white camera angles, and even some ground-breaking battle footage, the movie is almost always remembered primarily for the image of Slim Pickens riding the bomb like a bucking bronco, yee-hawing and waving his hat as it drops out of sight.
Honorable Mention: Men in Black (1997), Small Soldiers (1998), and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)