A commando who prefers tape and banana peels to firearms goes after his old nemesis.
Directed by Jorma Taccone
Starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, and Val Kilmer
Review by Jon Kissel
Parodying a specific brand of action movie is one thing. Going after the know-it-all, self-mythologizing pseudo-alpha doesn’t require guns and explosions, as Will Ferrell’s made a career out of this. MacGruber has the high body count and the throat rips, and it’s also got the masculine depuffing. MacGruber is a coward who uses human shields, a clown who doesn’t realize the kids in his adopted Latino refuge are not impressed by him, a perceived sexual dynamo who drapes himself over his conquests and hilariously makes donkey sounds, and a cad who stole his best friend’s fiancée and convinced to get an abortion. His consistent incompetence doesn’t impact his ability to barge into rooms and demand people pay attention to him. MacGruber’s a person who sucks, full stop, and Forte leans all the way into his unlikable characteristics.
On top of the solid parody and the fleshed-out lead, MacGruber thrives on dollops of weirdness and comedic grace notes, both of which fuel the rewatchability of the film. Sound effects are juiced with a jaguar noise. He drops a one-liner and is immediately undercut by a phone ringing in the background. The hilarious side plot about the jerk whose license plate MacGruber grinds into the fiber of his being. That Val Kilmer’s villain role is the best thing he’s done in the last fifteen years, based solely on his petulant complaining as MacGruber takes apart his nuclear missile. That Kilmer’s Kunth is clearly the wronged party in his past relationship with MacGruber. I don’t understand how a comedy as fun as this failed to find an audience in theaters, and even now could barely be classified as a cult hit or a critical favorite, especially compared to something like the beloved (amongst the smart people) Popstar. Will Forte mimes fucking the ghost of his dead wife on her grave, complete with harmonious sex noises. What more do people want? B+