I can’t remember the last time I actually gave a damn about Saturday Night Live. After watching MacGruber, however, I can now unequivocally say that I’ve joined the ranks of those who want to see SNL on the chopping block. Not because of anything that is actually on the show, but rather because—call me a humanitarian—I don’t want them to ever try foisting something as downright insipid as MacGruber on the general populace again.
The movie is based on a series of SNL sketches that spoof the ‘80s TV series MacGyver. Besides the obvious question of who thought it was pertinent to poke fun at an 18-years-dead TV show, the SNL skits in question only last about 30 seconds. What usually kind of works as a five-minute-long TV segment very rarely works when drawn out over 90 minutes—go dig up a copy of Stuart Saves His Family (1995) if you need an example of how this can go horribly awry. In the case of MacGruber, what is just dumb in 30 seconds becomes an exercise in the most egregious way to blow millions of dollars of studio money, aside from setting it on fire in front of starving children.
Instead of MacGyver, we have MacGruber (Will Forte, The Brothers Solomon). He is essentially the same character with (supposedly) the same ability to thwart evildoers with basic household junk, sporting the same mullet and with a predilection towards khaki. The difference is that MacGruber is an idiotic blowhard. He is your basic movie moron: loud, brash, rude—but now with bonus undercurrents of homophobia and misogyny.
MacGruber’s mission is to stop a criminal mastermind (Val Kilmer) from destroying Washington, D.C., with a stolen warhead. But the plot isn’t important, just a means of getting from gag to gag—at least in theory. The problem is there is maybe one joke with an actual punch line attached. The best example is Val Kilmer’s character’s name, Dieter Von Cu*th. MacGruber gets as much mileage as possible by repeating his last name. And that’s pretty much it. No bad puns, no real jokes attached to it, just a word that sounds like another word and the hope that the audience’s Pavlovian instincts will kick in.
The entire movie is set up in this way—just a lot of swearing and gross-out gags in an attempt at freaking out the round haircuts, except none of it works because none of it is new. Ryan Phillippe with a celery stalk inserted into his rectum (yes, this happens) isn’t the height of hilarity or offensiveness (though it’s probably pretty symbolic of his career path); it’s just dumb and toothless. At least something like Observe and Report had the wherewithal to be morally repugnant.
The best MacGruber can accomplish is to carry on the long-held tradition of awful Saturday Night Live movies. There was one last bomb MacGruber failed to disarm; unfortunately for everyone, that bomb was this movie. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, violence, language and some nudity.