' ' Cinema Romantico: Macgruber

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The Amish have rumspringa, wherein at the age of 16 children in the Amish community are allowed to explore the world outside the only one they have ever known, often leading to intense flings with alcohol, drugs and sex, and then deciding if they want to continue in the Amish civilization or leave it forevermore. "Macgruber" is a cinematic rumspringa. It is based on Will Forte's Saturday Night Live sketch which repeatedly found him playing the title character, a spoof on the old ABC show MacGyver, whose attempts to deactivate ticking time bombs would always go awry, usually due to his own idiocy. Being that the sketch was on NBC it had to adhere to strict PG-13 standards of comedy and now that it's made its way to the big screen for a whole hour-and-a-half, well, all bets are off. Oops. Excuse me. All f---ing bets are off. The kids - Forte, along with his fellow SNL scribes Jorma Taccone (who also directed) and John Solomon - have been let loose.

Here is my synopsis of "Macgruber": Swear Word. Swear Word. Swear Word. Will Forte's Butt. Will Forte's Butt. Swear Word. Swear Word. Will Forte's Butt. Swear Word. That's all you need to know to decide whether or not this is a movie you want to see. Oh, sure, the movie is about something, superficially, but really it's just a flimsy clothesline for profanity, vulgarity, all that which cannot be shown on network television.

The clothesline: an egomaniacal, ponytailed villain named Deiter von Cunth (Val Kilmer), whose name stops being funny after the initial 27 times it is said aloud in the first 15 minutes, has stolen a nuclear warhead. Thus, Colonel Faith (Powers Boothe) and Lt. Piper (Ryan Phillippe) attempt to enlist the now-retired (and supposedly dead) Macgruber to assemble a team and go after von Cunth, his longtime nemesis. At first, Macgruber resists, then he relents, then he assembles a team, after the first team has departed for reasons I will not reveal, comprised of Lt. Piper and Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig), who agrees to give up her musical dreams to help her old friend.

Is "Macgruber" funny? Well, sometimes. The opening credits are laugh-out-loud (if also a place for our first couple f-bombs). The movie score is actually quite well done and deserving of an Oscar nod. Honestly. It's a spot-on spoof of the sorts of scores we always get in these movies - over-embellished and providing emotional cues for everything. Do not be surprised to learn Matthew Compton has been hired to compose the next Michael Bay movie. Wiig is always good for a few understated moments of hilarity. And while Phillippe merely plays the straight man I did like how he kept calling Macgruber out on his obvious clueslessness. "That's the plan? We're just gonna wing it?" "There's a big difference between winging it and seeing what happens."

One peculiarity regarding "Macgruber" is how determined the "screenplay" seems to make him unlikeable. Frank Drebin of "The Naked Gun" movies was a buffoon, sure, but he was always acting out of the goodness of his heart, always falling on the proper side of right and wrong. Macgruber, though, consistently makes decisions that are, frankly, deplorable. In fact, when von Cunth's motivation for disliking Macgruber is revealed you find yourself sympathizing with von Cunth. That can't be right.

Which brings me to Val Kilmer. He is the reason I bought a ticket. Truly. I was excited to see what he would do with this role. If you want to see him chewing scenery, well, be more prepared for him elegantly dining on scenery and then politely wiping the corners of his mouth. It's rather low key. Lest we forget, Val is a madman, a maverick, and it's as if he knew people expected him to dial it up and, thus, he dialed it down, just to mess with them. It's not as if he's helped with his lines but I'll admit I was hoping for a little more Crazy Eyes Val.

So unless you want a monsoon of bad language, R-rated usage of celery stalks and a subdued Future Governor Of New Mexico, I feel safe saying "Macgruber" is not worth the ticket.

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