SXSW FILM 2010
By JP Chapman | March 30, 2010
Director: Jorma Taccone
Writers: Jorma Taccone, Will Forte, John Solomon
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Maya Rudolph
Rounding out the premieres at this year’s SXSW film festival was MacGruber, the film adaptation of Will Forte’s popular SNL sketch of the same name. With the entire cast in attendance (including an awesomely obese Val Kilmer wearing Native American jewelry), this first look at the film was one of the most highly anticipated events of the festival. Did it deliver? Yes and no. If you’ve seen any of the multiple SNL sketches turned movies, you know that they’re a hit or miss affair—with the gross majority falling into the “miss” category. While MacGruber wasn’t a homerun per se, it was better than most of the standard fair that comes out of Lorne Michaels’s cinematic gates. More than anything, the film affirms Will Forte as an underappreciated member of the comedic community that deserves to helm more movies.
If you’ve seen the sketch version of MacGruber, you’re probably wondering how in the world they managed to turn one of the shorter skits on SNL into a full length feature film. With a plot that typically follows Kristen Wiig’s character yelling at Forte’s MacGruber (an awesome parody of Richard Dean Anderson’s MacGyver-complete with trademark vest, flannel, and hair) to quickly defuse a bomb, it always ends the same way-with MacGruber failing and the bomb blowing up in his face. The film version of MacGruber takes a slightly more sophisticated (I feel wrong using that word to describe anything about this movie) turn. Val Kilmer plays Dieter von Cunth, MacGruber’s sworn enemy, as he steals a nuclear warhead and launches a plan of revenge and world domination. Discovering what von Cunth is up to, the US government decides there’s only one person that can help them…MacGruber. The only challenge is that he has retired to a life of peace due to the weight of grief upon him following the death of his fiancée at the hands of von Cunth. Out of respect for his country, and with the hope of avenging his fiancée, MacGruber is persuaded to come out of retirement and reform a team to work with him. Following a semi-disastrous first attempt, MacGruber seeks out his former partner, Vicki St. Elmo (as played by Kristen Wiig). And despite his best attempts to leave him out, is persuaded to add Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillipe) to the team as well. Together, they will wear disguises, stick celery in their asses, and attempt to save the world…
It’s probably best to start talking about this film, with discussing director/co-writer Jorma Taccone. A writer on SNL and member of comedy group the Lonely Island (which also features SNL cast member Andy Samberg), Jorma has developed a reputation for the off-kilter/gross-out humor often found in the Digital Shorts of SNL. While he’s done some smaller films (Extreme Movie & Hot Rod), this is Jorma’s first chance to get some money and a bigger cast behind him, and wow….does he take his gross-out humor to the next level. Filled with awesomely awkward moments, disgusting sexual references, and just plain weirdness, MacGruber verges on something special more often than not. While some of the writing holds the film back from being a stand-out SNL comedy (along with the performance of Ryan Phillipe, who just annoyed me for some reason), the majority of it manages to give the characters portrayed by Forte and Wiig exactly what they need to stand out. Wiig’s been an on the verge star for quite some time now, but as I alluded to earlier in the review, more than anything else, MacGruber serves to prove out Will Forte’s worth as a comedian. This man needs more work! I personally think he’s one of the more talented of SNL’s current cast members, and this film only served to reaffirm that for me. A seriously awesome job by him.
Part Austin Powers and part MacGyver (with a lot of grossness mixed in), MacGruber succeeds at what it attempts to be. While not amongst the best SNL films, it is also not one of the worst. (I know that doesn’t sound that committal or great, but to me it equals a “not bad” SNL film.) All in all, I can say it’s amongst the better of the middle of the road SNL films, and is a fun watch—if nothing more than for the awesome performance of Will Forte.
*An interesting side-note: I learned that MacGyver creator Lee David Zlotoff attempted to issue a cease and desist due to film rights he retains to the original MacGyver series. No lawsuit was filed though, and the film is still coming out.