Throughout the years Saturday Night Live has been a staple of comedy on television. Since the mid seventies SNL has provided ageless jokes and catered to the breeding grounds of up and coming comics. And since the late seventies the writers and actors of the show have tried to turn their five minute skits into ninety minute movies. Jump started with the amazing Blues Brothers the library of films to have come out from SNL have been less than stellar. And the minds behind MacGruber have a uphill battle to not disappointment faithful fans and audiences.
First up this film is firmly set in the comedy category and I believe one’s enjoyment of comedic films is directly related to their specific sense of humor. And I will go ahead and say that the highest praise that you can give a comedy film is by laughing, and I did laugh. Which is strange since my favorite comedies are not interested in having a joke every three seconds. A film needs plot, character development, and not have the fear to add tragedy. MacGruber has very little of the first two and none of the tragedy. However there all long segments in the film that I never stop laughing which is more than I can say for many comedies coming out nowadays. Now make no mistake this movie is filled toilet humor and as many jokes as you can stuff into a pickle jar. So the question is what does this low brow film make a high brow audience member like me actually enjoy this film. Delivery.
Will Forte plays the title character to near perfection. MacGruber is, at a surface level, a spoof off of the television character MacGyver, but other than that they share nearly no similarities. The character is more interested in looking badass, in his own mind, and saving the day to get the chicks. Not to mention the occasional throat ripping. And even though the film does have a little bit of a rough start the moment you sync with MacGruber’s personality and “charm” he becomes instantly funnier. Forte knows the character like the back of hand which translates to a fully realized character on screen. Unlike even Wayne and Garth from perhaps the second best SNL movie, MacGruber is not a one note character. He has his highs and lows, knows his element and screws up in ways that make sense to the character that has been established. The end result? A main character that is a complete moron, klutz, and oblivious but yet completely hysterical.
For the most part this extends to the rest of the cast. Kristen Wiig plays Victoria St. Elmo with as much care as Forte. She is the Robin to MacGruber’s Batman and is as sweet and caring as MacGruber is crude and spontaneous. Ryan Philippe plays the straight man and is actually the biggest disappointment in the film. Most of the time he feels like he is just watching the scene enfold around him and says his line when asked. But a really nice surprise comes from Val Kilmer who plays MacGruber arch villain Cunth. Sadly his name is played as a joke for most of the film and is the biggest joke that falls flat on its face. However Kilmer plays the character without blinking an eye. He balances chewing the scenery with a calm demeanor making him perhaps one of the more memorable comic villains I have ever seen.
In the end, the description of the best SNL movie since Wayne’s World is completely true. But the hill that MacGruber had to climb to earn that title is less steep than a prairie mound in the middle of the Sahara. By no means does the film try to make its characters learn a lesson at the end of the day but there is enough to ground the characters in a certain reality. Which makes all the difference when dealing with such low brow humor. MacGruber may not be one of the great comedy films of our time but you’ll have fun. Whether or not the film holds up on repeat viewings I do not know. It does rely on the initial shock of most of its jokes and when you can see the punch line coming I’m sure it will get dull. But that first watch is a damn good time.