“Well, everday’s a workout when you gotta carry around a 20 pound python in your jeans.”
In 2010, it had been a decade since a Saturday Night Live character made it to the big screen (The Ladies Man). And it had been 17 years since an SNL character had made it to the big screen in a movie that could be considered a hit, (Wayne’s World 2). So it’s surprising that when SNL head honcho Lorne Michaels decided it was time to get back in the feature film game, he didn’t tread lightly. Instead, he went balls out of the bath on this one, with the truly insane piece of violent, profane, goofy genre piss taking, that is MacGruber.
When your typical, run of the mill action movie super villain, Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) steals a nuclear war head, US Colonel Faith (Powers Booth) knows there’s only man up to the job of getting it back. “The Legendary MacGruber (Will Forte). Former Navy SEAL, Army Ranger and Green Beret. Served six tours in Desert Storm, four in Bosnia, three each in Angola, Somalia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Sierra Leone. Recipient of sixteen Purple Hearts, three Congressional Medals of Honor, seven Presidential Medals of Bravery and starting tight end for the University of Texas, El Paso.”
After assembling his dream team, then immediately blowing them up by mistake, MacGruber has to settle for second best. Fresh faced military hot shot Piper (Ryan Phillipe), and a colleague from the old days, Vicki (Kristen Wiig). All the while, MacGruber also has to deal with flashbacks of Cunth killing his bride (Mya Rudolph as Casey) on their wedding day.
As SNL Week has proven, the most common problem with movies based on Saturday Night live characters is sustaining them over feature length. The biggest advantage MacGruber has is the many genres and tropes it has at its disposal to parody. There’s MacGruber’s super dumb version of McGyver’s innovation. There’s the tortured hero trying to defeat his demons, like Riggs in Lethal Weapon. There’s some James Bond style villainy in the form of Cunth. MacGruber throws absolutely everything at the wall, and it’s surprising just how much sticks.
It also helps that MacGruber is nothing less than filthy in so much of its comedy. They could have played it safe and gone for the wider audience that comes with a PG rating. Instead, the language is gloriously dirty, the jokes are a perfect mix of childish and profane, and the shock value works more often than not. The villain’s name rhyming with the most controversial of curse words might not be the most high brow, but I’ll be buggered if it didn’t get funnier every time MacGruber seethed Cunth’s name.
Failing to make its budget back at the box office, MacGruber was far from a success in 2010. So this movie is probably one very big reason why we haven’t seen a Saturday Night Live movie in the years since. But in those years since, it’s gained a bit of a cult following and grown in movie nerd esteem. And in early 2015, there were rumors that not only was a sequel possibly the works, but that it may have already been shot on the sly. It hasn’t appeared yet, but if it does, I’ll be there to see it on the big screen.