MacGruber jettisons the narrow scope of its SNL roots to give the character room to manoeuvre. Taccone and co-writers Forte and Jason Solomon reconstruct the idea of spoofing action movies, notably the brawn-over-brains Stallone flicks of the '80s. Events take place a decade after MacGruber's true love Casey (Maya Rudolph) was killed on the day of their wedding by his nemesis Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer). MacGruber is presumed dead and drops off the radar until Col. Faith (Powers Boothe) finds him in Ecuador and enlists him to stop Cunth detonating a stolen nuclear warhead. He assembles a crack squad, portrayed by wrestling stars, only to see them killed in an explosion. The hero is left with Ryan Phillippe's military stiff Dixon Piper and former colleague-turned-popstar Vicki St Elmo (Kristen Wiig) in his elite team.
Gags fly thick and fast in MacGruber and they're of the hit and miss variety. Forte runs the dumb-guy-out-of-his-depth shtick into the ground at times, all hot air and bluster, but manages to hit the target with the gags more often than not. A running joke about his unnatural attachment to a Blaupunkt car radio is about as deft as things get - Taccone mostly indulges in ramping the base humour up to 11. The positioning of a stick of celery, references to “upperdecking” and two spectacularly loud sex scenes (in the first Wiig appears to be desperately trying to suppress laughter) highlight that this isn't powered by cerebral wit. It's a comedy that's hardwired into a part of the brain that might still appreciate a bit of immaturity and smutty humour.
The nods to action movies of yesteryear are perceptive, though the genre mickey-taking is never quite as effective as Airplane! or the Austin Powers series. There's a team-assembling montage, the requisite backstory connecting MacGruber to Cunth in the past (they fell out over Casey) and an additional action sequence when the film appears to be winding down. Taccone also manages to recreate the look and feel of an action movie on a slim budget.
MacGruber might be a wildly uneven ride, but it doesn't outstay its welcome and lined up against other Saturday Night Live productions it's hardly the worst of the bunch. Leaving your brain in the lobby, though, is pretty much a requirement - this is guiltily enjoyable if monumentally stupid.
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