Be careful who you invite to see “MacGruber,” the first Saturday Night Live skit-based movie in ten years.
On television MacGruber is a short sketch based loosely on the “McGyver” TV action series. The punchline in every episode is everything blows up “real good” at the end.
This is hardly the basis for a feature-length film, but writer-star Will Forte, screenwriter John Solomon and director Jorma Taccone have managed to stretch a thin concept into a pretty darn funny R-rated 1980s action flick parody.
The R in this case stands for “raunchy.” Freed from the restraints of network television, MacGruber can be as naughty as he wants to be, hence the warning at the outset of this review.
The story begins in Ecuador. After the murder of his fiancée Casey (Maya Rudolph) in the middle of their marriage ceremony, MacGruber, the most decorated soldier in US military history, has renounced violence and retreated to a monastery.
Technically, MacGruber is dead, but when his old friend and mentor, Col. James Faith (Powers Boothe) beseeches him to save the world from nuclear destruction one last time, MacGruber reluctantly agrees to retrieve his cool 1980s clothes, cut his hair into his signature mullet, and assemble a dream team of mercenaries to take down his nemesis, Dieter Con Cunth (Val Kilmer). It is Cunth who blew away MacGruber’s true love a decade ago.
Cunth (take note of that pun-friendly last name) has gotten ahold of a Russian nuclear warhead and plans world domination.
Not over MacGruber’s dead body, he vows.
The hilarity ensues with MacGruber’s ill-fated dream team and continues with his stripped-down, second-string dream team, consisting of rookie Green Beret Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe), and resourceful, platonic gal pal Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig).
Kristen Wiig reprises her TV role as MacGruber’s adoring, wide-eyed sidekick, and it is the precision of her deadpan delivery that keeps this flimsy vehicle together.
Phillippe is an equally appealing straight man to Forte’s bungling character.
“MacGruber” is not as vulgar or offensive as “Borat,” but it is not a movie you’d want to take your mom to. It reminds me of a dirtier version of the early Mad magazine, with every frame chockablock with visual gags. It is easily the funniest Saturday Night Live sketch movie since “Wayne’s World.”