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Only one American hero has earned the rank of Green Beret, Navy SEAL and Army Ranger. Just one operative has been awarded 16 purple hearts, 3 Congressional Medals of Honor and 7 presidential medals of bravery. And only one guy is man enough to still sport a mullet. In 2010, Will Forte brings Saturday Night Live's clueless soldier of fortune to the big screen in the action comedy MacGruber.
In the 10 years since his fiancée was killed, special op MacGruber has sworn off a life of fighting crime with his bare hands. But when he learns that his country needs him to find a nuclear warhead that's been stolen by his sworn enemy, Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), MacGruber figures he's the only one tough enough for the job.
Assembling an elite team of experts--Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig)--MacGruber will navigate an army of assassins to hunt down Cunth and bring him to justice. His methods may be unorthodox. His crime scenes may get messy. But if you want the world saved right, you call in MacGruber.
For more about MacGruber and the MacGruber Blu-ray release, see MacGruber Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 27, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Jorma Taccone
Writers: Will Forte, John Solomon
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph
» See full cast & crew
MacGruber Blu-ray Review
This film is yet another bomb our erstwhile hero can't defuse.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 27, 2010
Has the torch been passed to a new generation of Blu-ray reviewers? While watching MacGruber with my 11 year old son (yes, you're right, he shouldn't have been watching an R-rated film), he turned to me and asked, "Dad, have you ever noticed how action comedy movies usually aren't very funny or very. . .actiony?" Despite the coining of a new word (a standard occurrence with this kid), I had to admit I agreed with the sentiment. While there are certainly exceptions to every rule, MacGruber unfortunately isn't one of them. Based on a set of formulaic skits from Saturday Night Live, the film version of MacGruber attempts to fill up an hour and a half, more or less, with character backstory and high tech gizmos, neither of which help flesh out the humor or the action. SNL has had a rocky road adapting its skits to the big screen milieu (Coneheads, anyone?), but there have been some bright spots as well, notably the original Blues Brothers outing. Heck, I even got a kick out of Al Franken's hilarious Stuart Smalley character in Stuart Saves the World, which a lot of people didn't find "good enough" or "smart enough". But the thought of expanding a one-note shtick filled "filler" skit like MacGruber certainly points out someone's extreme hubris or idiocy, or both. Whether it's the fault of star and co-scenarist Will Forte or his co-scenarist and director Jorma Taccone, or even usual suspect producer Lorne Michaels, is anyone's guess and ultimately really is irrelevant. MacGruber on SNL is a one-trick pony, a MacGyver parody where the hero gets blown to smithereens every week. Part of the humor of the television version is its lameness, but the humor is also aided and abetted by the fact that most of the MacGruber skits are mercifully short. Here the premise is blown up (pun intended) to literally no avail. Yes, there are scattered laughs to be had, some of them quite hearty, and the film looks and sounds impressive. But overall it's not really very funny. Or, dare I say, "actiony."
We have to wait for a while before we get MacGruber with his iconic 1980s mullet, plaid shirt and reckless attitude. The film opens on a desert scene where a nuclear warhead is being hijacked by the really evil Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer). Of course, Cunth's surname becomes a running gag in the film, with such pricelessly hilarious lines as MacGruber's eager, "I'm going to go pound some Cunth." The world has considered MacGruber dead for 10 years (how could they not when he gets obliterated at the end of every SNL skit?), but Col. Faith (Powers Booth) and his nerdy assistant, Lt. Piper (Ryan Phillippe) track the hero down in a monastery where, Rambo III style, he's forsaken his life of adventure for more spiritual considerations. When via flashback we see that Cunth was responsible for the death of MacGruber's fiancée (Maya Rudolph), there's little doubt that the mullet, plaid shirt, and reckless attitude can be far behind.
Once we have the plot set up, things become more promising on the comedy side of things as MacGruber attempts to assemble his own version of the A-Team. (Several WWE stars make cameos in this sequence). The montage works perfectly, including a very funny, if patently homophobic, sight gag, and then there's an absolutely perfect payoff as MacGruber brags to Piper about having put together a dream team which is waiting in a van also loaded with mounds of C4 personally placed there by the mulleted one. Of course any fan of MacGruber can probably guess the outcome of that packing adventure. That in turn leads to MacGruber having to assemble his B-Team, which turns out to be Piper himself (recruited in a gross but funny pantless interlude by Forte) and MacGruber's one time assistant, now an erstwhile singer-songwriter, Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig).
This intrepid trio sets off to stop Cunth at any cost, tracking him to Las Vegas, and then, in a perhaps unintentionally hilarious setting for this former Utahn, to Salt Lake City. Kilmer, surprisingly pudgy and puffy looking, is weird and slightly wonderful in this role, as if channeling Jim Morrison in late middle age without the benefit of herbal (or other) supplements. Watching Kilmer paint a frankly disgusting looking naked old woman is off putting and bizarrely amusing at the same time.
Also working well here, perhaps against all odds, is the often constipated ambience of Ryan Phillippe. His Piper, all straight arrow uptightness, works as the anchor to at least slightly ground the lunatic fringe which surrounds him. Forte frankly tries too hard a lot of the time, mistaking repetitive dropping of the F-bomb for brilliant comedy writing, but he manages to make MacGruber a likable, if completely inept, character. The best thing about MacGruber from a performance standpoint, though, is Wiig, wonderfully sly and understated as Vicki. Her scene in the coffee shop, where she's been made up to look like MacGruber to act as a decoy, is one of the funnier segments in the film. Her Farrah Fawcett hairdo and nicely tailored pantsuit also are perfectly adroit. In fact, the nonstop homage to the 1980s, including everything from films to fashion to television to the ubiquitous use of source cues from bands like Toto, also lends the film a deliberately campy zeitgeist which may not be laugh out loud hilarious, but can at least elicit giggles of "can you believe things were ever like that?"
What hobbles MacGruber more than anything, though, is the premise's complete inability to support a feature film. The skits on SNL are sometimes mere seconds long, built around an impending explosion. Fans of the television version know that MacGruber is an oaf and is fated to fail. That doesn't portend well for a feature outing where MacGruber needs to be the hero. In the similarly themed (and just as similarly unsuccessful) big screen version of Get Smart, Max's ineptitude more often than not managed to make him get the bad guy almost in spite of himself. Here, MacGruber stumbles through a series of misadventures before turning into a bona fide, throat-ripping hero in the final act. It's an uneasy combination that sucks the life out of the comedy while never preparing the audience to enjoy the action elements.
Anyone who's stuck with SNL for very long knows that any given night is a hit or miss affair, sometimes glittering with sparks of brilliance which can, in the next bit, turn into decrepit turds of ridiculousness. Unfortunately that situation has played out in the franchise's attempts to mine their material for the big screen. When any given attempt has flat out failed, it's been easy to dismiss the effort and move on. MacGruber is a little bit harder of a nut to crack, if only for the handful of really funny bits that Forte and the company manage to eke out of the wreckage. Charitable people, and probably especially adolescent males, are going to love this film for its anarchic spirit, potty mouth and deliberately outré gags like celery sticking out of a man's butt. Those with a perhaps more refined taste in humor will no doubt manage to find a few laughs here, but will be less forgiving for the film's unevenness and lack of sustained comedy.
MacGruber Blu-ray, Video Quality
For such a silly little film, MacGruber sports one of the sharpest Blu-ray images to come down the line in quite a while. Delivered via a VC-1 encode, in 1080p and an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, MacGruber has several extremely colorful segments throughout which bristle with exemplary saturation. The opening desert scene and some of the fluorescent interior scenes look like they've been deliberately desaturated, but even there, detail is very strong. I was struck repeatedly by impressive detail in such seemingly minor items like Powers Booth turning slightly in his office, where the light just glances off the side of his face, revealing an errant whisker he hadn't shaved properly. Contrast and black levels are both excellent as well, making the neon carnival ride in Las Vegas especially enjoyable. A lot of MacGruber is on the garish side, but the Blu-ray supports the riot of colors extremely well, from the ultramodern interior where Cunth and his cronies play poker (and I can tell you from personal experience no structure like that ever existed in Salt Lake City) to the green and gray control room where the rogue nuclear missile is about to rain destruction down on the free world. The only brief moment of artifacting I noticed in the entire movie was one quick crane shot in Las Vegas, as MacGruber pulls into a casino, and some very slight motion judder crops up.
MacGruber Blu-ray, Audio Quality
MacGruber's extremely robust DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix will have you ducking for cover a time or two, as well as having your neighbors pounding on your apartment walls if you're unlucky enough to live in a shared housing environment where turning this track up to 11 may not be your best option. This track virtually drowns in LFE a lot of the time, and not just from the expected moments like explosions and gun battles. The bass heavy thump of the source 80s cues also fills the low end of this track with a lot of appealing, and very forceful at times, thump. Immersion is really superb throughout the film, perhaps surprising given its ambitions, with several of the action sequences simply cascading around the surrounds with a glut of foley effects. Even relatively "simple" stunts like MacGruber being thrown through a glass window can startle as the tinkle of glass reaches out and pans past the listener. The Vegas casino segment is also nicely cacaphonous, as the ambient sounds and music surround the listener extremely effectively. Dialogue is crisp and clear, often nicely directional (listen to the reverb in the big interior spaces, for example), and overall this is a very fun and involving sonic experience.
MacGruber Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Universal has gone a little light on the supplements on this release. Two versions of the film are included, the original theatrical cut, which runs 1:30:16, and the considerably more profane and at times lurid unrated cut, which adds a few minutes and comes in at 1:34:53. Otherwise, there's a jokey, pretty enjoyable Commentary with Forte, Taccone and co-writer John Solomon. Also on tap is a pointless Deleted Scene, which runs all of 44 seconds, and a silly Gag Reel, set to music, which runs 8:01. The disc is BD Live, pocket Blu and DBox enabled.
MacGruber Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Do you faithfully stick through the closing credits of SNL every week? Then you're probably already perfectly primed to accept MacGruber, warts and all. Others with less patience may want to take this out for a rental test spin to see if it delivers enough laughs to make a purchase worthwhile. My hunch is a lot of people will be echoing my son and proclaiming MacGruber sorely lacking in both humor and "actiony" elements.
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MacGruber Blu-ray, News and Updates
• MacGruber Announced on Blu-ray - July 22, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has officially announced and detailed the Blu-ray release of MacGruber, which is due out on September 7 in an unrated version. In this action comedy, based upon a recurring sketch and character on Saturday Night Live, special ...
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