I love reading FilmChaw posts, but I haven't posted on here in months. It must be because my consumption pales in comparison to Dawn, the patron saint of Netflix, I don't attend any cool film festivals like Astin, and I can't get myself to delve deeply into random flicks like the Goat. But we all have our movie-watching quirks, so I've decided to embrace mine. 3.5" movies, for the guy who watches more movies on his iPod Touch in 15-30 minute increments than any other form of media.
When it comes to watching movies on an iPod Touch, I've discovered a real surprise: some movies are better in mini-form. The mini-format is not just size, but also time. I literally watch most of my iPod Touch movies in brief intervals while riding to and from work. And I will often bounce between different things, so it may take me a week to finish a 2 hour movie. Amazingly, while I am probably breaking all of the rules of movie-watching, I find that some films are actually way more enjoyable than I expected (usually based on others' reviews), leading me to believe that some films may actually benefit from my micro movie style.
Let's get to the first film in this hopefully long series of posts. The first is a sleeper of a film, by which I mean it utterly failed at the box office, despite lots of promotion: MacGruber!!!!!! The title doesn't actually have six exclamation points, but it should!!!!!!
MacGruber is a comedy based on the micro-sketch that has been airing on Saturday Night Live sporadically for the last several years. On SNL, the sketch is basically a riff on MacGyver, the 80s TV character who was known mostly for taking random objects and turning them into whatever tool he needed to stop the bad guys or disable the bomb or escape from the trap. So, MacGruber on SNL (played by Will Forte) was merely a skit with a needy, emotional version of MacGyver and usually two other actors, generally a female sidekick (Kristin Wiig) and the special guest of the week. Invariably, they would be locked somewhere, diffusing a bomb, when MacGruber would get distracted by some personal issue, at which point, the bomb would explode presumably killing them all...until the next MacGruber sketch.
With this background, its easy to see why the movie looked like a dog. MacGyver is a pretty old reference for a parody and the sketch was always limited, but the movie transcends these issues. The parody is broadened from MacGyver to general action movies, with takeoffs from a variety of films too lengthy (and likely too obscure in some cases) to list here.
Perhaps the greatest strength in the film was its willingness to accept an R rating. Most comedies attempt to go broad to attract the teen audience, but MacGruber was pure R. That means boobies and bad words, two things that help any action or comedy movie.
As MacGruber, Will Forte is absolutely hilarious. The character is well realized and multi-dimensional, not to mention delusional and just plain awesome. For instance, a running gag is that MacGruber does not use guns...but he does have a patented move where he rips out the bad guys' windpipes with his bare hands. It's absurd, disgusting, violent, and hilarious all rolled into one.
Also to be commended are his supporting case. Kristin Wiig is great as his female sidekick. She actually looks like a funny Jennifer Aniston; funny as in not as good looking but close enough, and funny as in she doesn't make every movie instantly suck by her presence. In fact, Wiig is a comedic star in her own right and more than holds her own in the movie. One of my favorite scenes involves Wiig dressed as MacGruber to be used as bait. She has MacGruber telling her how to act via an earpiece, but she is so skittish and a shrinking violet, particularly in comparison to the blustery MacGruber, that the scene is chock full of laughs. I really wish I could tell you the exact scene that had me rolling on the floor of the subway laughing, but I'd hate to ruin it.
Finally, I have to give props to an actor who is woefully underrespected in my humble opinion: Ryan Phillippe. Phillipe plays the role of the straight guy, both as his character and by the sheer fact that the usually-serious actor is in such a wacky comedy. And he's good. His acting is solid, and he somehow grounds the movies and the characters around him.
And to round out the cast, props to Val Kilmer, who played the villain, Kunth. Obviously, the name was picked so that MacGruber could make lots of lines about pounding that Kunth. It can be a bit of an old gag, but really, when do you ever hear the C-word used in film, especially in a comedy.
And for you wrestling fans out there, there is a scene you will absolutely love, with cameos of a handful of WWE stars. For you non-wrestling fans out there, its not a wrestling scene, so don't worry about it. You will not lose anything by your inability to identify the Big Show.
I'm giving MacGruber an 8 out of 10. It's laugh-out-loud funny, it doesn't pull any punches, and it has a surprisingly strong cast and story.
Until next time, keep 'em 3.5"!