Can producers Lorne Michaels and John Goldwyn and their band of merry late night pranksters stretch yet another “Saturday Night Live” sketch into a feature length production. Sure! The bigger question is: Can you make basically a one-joke movie an enjoyable occasion? I guess it depends on how you like your enjoyment served. Do you like your four-letter words flung about like a frisbee on a college campus? How about enough gutter humor to put the sanitation department on overtime? Would you be entertained by a lame-brained story about a stolen Russian nuke that forces the Pentagon to dig up a mullet-headed soldier to battle a menacing megalomaniac (and MacGruber’s former best friend)?
If so, then the answer is a rowdy and raunchy YES. This industrial strength “MacGruber” may not be as lovable as any of the death-inducing 3-minute skits that we’ve seen over the last several years, or as pleasurable as such SNL spin-offs as “The Blues Brothers” or”Wayne’s World,” but it will attract the crowds that flocked to “The Hangover” last year, plus build on word of mouth around the local latrine. But please, this is not my mom’s kinda movie—then again I doubt she’s ever stayed up late in the middle of the weekend to watch the NBC show. Now in my 60s, I’ve been a fan of SNL from the start (although the program hasn’t always delivered, comedy-wise). Toddlers and prudes need not avail themselves, but if you’re game for some sweet-and-sour male nudity, more than a few flippant (and flat out gross) sexual suggestions, counterfeit coitus which sounds like a sick goat in heat, assassin humor, and more, you’ll find all that and some decent (and indecent) action sequences that do manage to divert you for 99 minutes.
First-time feature director Jorma Taccone, who penned the expansion with star Will Forte and John Solomon (they all collaborated on 2008’s “Extreme Movie”), are all SNL cohorts who obviously want to shove the envelope of comedy into your face. They’ve mounted the film as a 1980s action film homage—right when the original special op “MacGyver” was airing on ABC—although it’s set in present day America. Forte’s character looks like he’s popped out of a time capsule, a more clueless and less sly variation of Mike Myers’ Austin Powers. The wonderfully funny Kristin Wiig’s Vicki St. Elmo is a demur and skittish sidekick who plays well against the over-sexed macho Marlboro man. She’s even more dolled up for that decade, with blue eyeliner and appropriate hair and wardrobe. While we’re talking about who’s doing what, let’s congratulate Ryan Philippe (Lt. Dixon Piper), Powers Boothe (Colonel Faith), and Val Kilmer (Dieter Von Cunth) for being good sports and tag team players, determined to have as much fun with their roles as the 28-day shooting schedule (in New Mexico) would allow. Not generally recognized for their comic skills, all deliver, especially Kilmer as the slick scum who spoiled MacGruber’s wedding day 10 years earlier to Casey (SNL alum Maya Rudolph), a dead fiancée who casts a ghostly here and there during the movie.
As for the plot, it starts with the theft of a nuclear missile in the Siberian mountains and ends with that device dangerously on target toward Washington, DC. MacGruber, presumed dead since his wedding day, is called to service by his former commander (Boothe, in deadpan mode) as the only agent who can find the device. After his recruits (featuring many superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment) have an unfortunate meeting with a trunkful of C4, Magruder desperately offers sexual favors to Lt. Piper so our hero (decorated beyond belief) not get booted from the job. Aspiring singer Vicki joins this mod squad to battle the band of terrorists, although Piper and Vicki also find themselves dueling with MacGruber’s ever-intensiving unorthodox methods and obstinate insensitivity. Ever determined, but often taking the wrong course of action, Forte’s character seems impervious to the menace (and gunfire) around him. That’s generally true, although there is a near-groin wound repaired with needle-nose piers that will make you grimace with laughter. The action is cartoonish, although the bullet sprays here are as bloody as those seen on HBO’s recent “The Pacific.” And MacGruber’s patented bare-handed throat-ripping techniques up the gore quotient a few notches as the film nears its climax. And just as MacGruber is about to meet his doom (Not! Just making sure you’re still paying attention.), there’s the trio doing their SNL shtick, the “You’ve got 3 minutes, MacGruber!” routine. As for Dieter Von Cunth, he ends up pissing MacGruber off.
There’s a running gag about a Blaupunkt car stereo that MacGruber always removes from his red sportscar, carrying into situations of potential violence. But it’s the celery stalk (and its placement on the naked human body) that will get the most guffaws. Watch for vegetarians picketing theatres near you.
My advice? Wear gloves, a surgical mask, and get the proper inoculations before entering the theatre. It’s the first sexually transmitted comedy of the year.