Will Forte is a talented, funny guy, and I would like to see him make a successful transition from Saturday Night Live to the big screen.
Unfortunately for Forte, MacGruber, his first starring big-screen role, is far from a success.
While Forte gives it his all, and fellow SNL writer Jorma Taccone makes a valiant effort in his feature-directing debut, the 90-second sketch ultimately doesn't prove itself worthy of big-screen treatment.
The recurring sketch has been good for a laugh or two on SNL. Most recently, MacGruber—an homage to TV action-hero MacGyver—tried to diffuse a bomb while dealing with his unnatural attraction to his grandma (played by Betty White in her SNL hosting debut). As usual, MacGruber became too distracted, and blew himself and his nana to bits. It's worthy of a giggle or two, but not substantial.
The same goes for the big-screen treatment of MacGruber; there are some laughs to be had during its 99-minute running time, but not enough to propel an entire feature film.
After seeing his fiancée blown up at their wedding altar by the evil Dieter Von Cunth (the "H" is silent, and he's played by Val Kilmer), MacGruber (Forte) fakes his death and goes into hiding. When Cunth hijacks a nuclear missile, MacGruber's former commander (Powers Boothe) coaxes him out of retirement, and an elite force of heroic men is formed.
Unfortunately, MacGruber irresponsibly places too much C-4 in their van before the mission starts and blows them all to smithereens.
MacGruber resorts to plan B, which includes a team including SNL cohort Kristen Wiig as a feeble operative, and Ryan Phillippe as the straight man to Forte's antics. They face off against Cunth, predictably repeating his naughty name again and again.
MacGyver was on the air in the '80s, and this gives Forte a chance to goof on the decade, which results in some of the film's better jokes. A running gag involving his removable car stereo is funny, as is the appearance of certain bands on the soundtrack: Toto, Eddie Money and Quarterflash all rock out.
But the main plot comes off as a poor man's Austin Powers rather than an adept spoof of action movies. Some of the movie's more prominent jokes—including the insertion of celery stalks into a butthole—are just random silliness. While I don't generally have a problem with random silliness, I do when it involves a naked Forte with celery sticking out of his ass.
I like Wiig a lot, and she gets a funny moment or two. I couldn't help but thinking that a couple of her SNL characters, like the Asshole Girl or Target Lady, would be more worthy of a feature film. Kilmer has a couple of funny moments—and his death scene is a mighty thing of beauty that almost saves the movie. Had the rest of the film lived up to the hilarity of this moment, Forte and Taccone might've had something here.
This premise might—might—have worked as a weekly TV show. The world could use a good weekly spoof like Police Squad!, and the MacGruber gag may have worked in half-hour bites. However, given that the film bombed in its opening weekend, it's not likely anything like that will happen.
I still have hope for Forte. His potato-chip-thief sketch was the funniest thing on SNL this year, and the MacGruber character will probably live on if Forte returns for another season. Expect to see MacGruber distracted by bad reviews and box-office returns while trying to diffuse a bomb.