Saying that MACGRUBER is the funniest based-on-an-SNL-skit movie since WAYNE'S WORLD is faint praise considering in the years since we've had THE CONEHEADS, A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY, SUPERSTAR and LADIES MAN. But MACGRUBER is most certainly the funniest SNL movie in a long, long time and while it might not be as widely accessible as WAYNE'S WORLD, it might even be funnier.
A comedy has one basic goal: to be funny. Make the audience laugh and so much will be forgiven. A lot of people have been wondering how director Jorma Taccone and writer/star Will Forte planned on adapting a rather slight and one-jokey premise to a feature film and I think the answer was so simple, most people overlooked it.
Instead of focusing on the template of the sketches (alarm goes off - Kristen Wiig shouts "10 seconds MacGruber!" - MacGruber asks guest host for some kind of material - they have a completely irrelevant and inane argument - bomb explodes mid-sentence) the film is structured like a late-80s action movie with a plot you've seen about 100 times before. MacGruber is a superstar hero who retires and goes into hiding after a personal tragedy. A megalomaniacal villain with ties to our hero threatens the world with a nuclear weapon and MacGruber is the only man who can stop him.
using this premise, Taccone, Forte and John Solomon have crafted a film that is SO much funnier than you'd expect; the kind where you want the audience to stop laughing for a second so you can catch up on some of the jokes. I haven't laughed like this in the theater since TROPIC THUNDER.
What sets this movie apart from WAYNE'S WORLD or something like HOT ROD (which wasn't an SNL movie but shares some of the same behind-the-scenes talent) is just how raunchy and vulgar this is. It's officially rated-R for "strong, crude and sexual content" and they didn't just make this a little R-rated, it's way overboard. (At the post-screening Q&A, Taccone said they were actually worried about an NC-17 for their first edit.) But that's precisely what makes this work. It's not just saying f*ck or dick for cheap laughs but that's who MacGruber is.
It's hard sometimes to gauge how much you really like a film when you're surrounded by a hyped up crowd that's feeding off each other's energy. I knew I liked this film though when I found myself laughing all alone at some random line or gesture. MACGRUBER is the kind of movie with jokes for everyone: broad humor and sly little mentions that might slip by on first notice.
Will Forte, as the title character, obviously has a lot of the heavy lifting here and boy does he sell this thing 110%. There's a particular scene in which MacGruber is romancing a woman and Forte's performance is so insanely dedicated (and he finishes with such a great line), the audience broke out into spontaneous applause in the middle of the movie.
One of the smartest decisions was how early on they set up MacGruber as a legitimately feared force of justice. At one point, he's actually saving the day and at another, he's crying in a heap on the floor with his pants around his ankles. It's that dichotomy that makes the character work so well instead of just some one-note buffoon. (Did I just use the word "dichotomy" in a MACGRUBER review?)
I don't want to give too much of the movie away because like most great comedies, this one will benefit from multiple viewings and I want everyone to be able to experience for themselves. Unlike most movies where the best bits are in the trailer, I can assure you the best bits aren't in the trailer at all.
I can't leave without giving some props to director (and co-writer) Jorma Taccone. Best known prior to this as one of the members of Lonely Island (with MACGRUBER executive producer Akiva Schaffer) and an actor in movies like HOT ROD and LAND OF THE LOST, his only directorial work prior to this was the "MacGruber" skits and some of the SNL Digital Shorts like "Like a Boss." He made a film that was shot on a shoestring budget in just 28 days look like something that could actually stand among some of the very 80s films it's inspired by.