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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘MacGruber’ a blast from the past

    Will Forte, Kristin Wiig & Ryan Phillippe


    To be released May 21, 2010

    Grade: A-

    The fundamental problem facing “”Saturday Night Live”” movies is their insistence on remaining within the world of their sketch. The failure of “”Ladies Man”” and “”Superstar”” marks the inability for these films to evacuate their comfortable settings for cinematic legitimacy. Even the last great SNL film, “”Wayne’s World,”” was an extension of the skit’s general premise except with Rob Lowe. The only SNL film to truly escape its television roots was the classic “”Blues Brothers,”” a film that expanded a simple foundation into a character-driven landmark of comedy.

    “”MacGruber”” succeeds because it takes its SNL roots and completely voids them. Aside from name recognition and a slight outline of character, the film has nothing to do with the skit. “”MacGruber”” has more in common with the great action films of the ’80s — “”Commando,”” “”Lethal Weapon”” and the “”Rambo”” series — than any comedy, much less its eponymous sketch.

    That is not to say the film isn’t funny. Quite the opposite, it is hilarious. It just also happens to be a straight-faced action film more interested in paying homage to its cinematic heroes than in decrying their legacy.

    From the opening scene, the film sets out to prove its worth as an action film. While it isn’t “”Hard-Boiled,”” the action in the film is quite serviceable. As a part of the action-comedy canon, it serves its forefathers well, at times surpassing the action of luminaries like “”Beverly Hills Cop.”” Furthermore, the film strikes a healthy balance between situational, character-driven and dialogue-based humor.

    Much credit is due to the writing team. Jorma Taccone, Will Forte and John Salomon balance the genuine ineptitude and distressing successes of MacGruber with precision. In the footsteps of Jacques Clouseau, MacGruber is a bumbling idiot. However, for every nine situations he screws up, he manages one unbelievable success that nobody else could ever achieve. His incompetence becomes a source of genuine tension, as the film maintains colossal inertia from its deadpan tone.

    Forte kills it as MacGruber. Preparing each line with a dumbfounded smile and a sense of accomplishment, Forte never lets on to the fact that he is an idiot. Instead, he propels the film forward with a healthy amount of unawareness and a striking emotional range. His MacGruber is not so much a caricature as an exaggeration — the goofy side of the American hero, but a hero nonetheless.

    Ryan Phillippe and Powers Boothe do an incredible job of selling the material in supporting roles. Playing their characters completely straight, the two allow MacGruber to exist in a legitimate world governed by articulate and rational characters. Phillippe’s Dixon Piper is the archetypal fresh recruit, but his no-nonsense approach provides the ideal comic foil to MacGruber’s lunacy, as well as the audience’s ambassador into MacGruber’s reality.

    “”MacGruber”” has the potential to be the best surprise of the summer — a film so in touch with its intentions that it seduces you through the genuine glee of its performers. While its surface is raunchy and shamelessly base, its sharp writing and direct focus suggest a much more complex film than anybody could have expected. Score one for America.

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