Directed by Jorma Taccone. Starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Maya Rudolph, Powers Boothe. (2010, R, 90 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 28, 2010
To enjoy Saturday Night Live's recurring MacGruber sketch, first you had to be in the know about its inspiration. In the affectionately remembered Eighties TV series MacGyver, Richard Dean Anderson starred as an anti-gun action hero who could jury-rig a fix-it to most any sticky situation with duct tape and a bottle of toilet-bowl cleaner. MacGruber (played in the film by SNL regular Forte) apes MacGyver's long hair and lumberjack look, but not his coolness under pressure; MacGruber's attempts to dismantle ticking bombs were always comically derailed by such personal crises as his racial insensitivity or his discomfort with his son's homosexuality. The succinct television sketches, which unspooled in three parts with setup/complication/punch line precision, always ended in the same place – with the inevitable detonation of the bomb. Almost as certain is the filmic fiasco – a different kind of bomb – that will happen whenever someone at SNL decides to take a relatively successful five-minute short – the Roxbury twins, for instance – and inflate the concept to feature-length. MacGruber's cold open is a poker-faced sequence set in Siberia involving a hijacked nuclear warhead and a grim villain named Dieter von Cunth (Kilmer); one suspects first-time director Taccone, who co-wrote the script with Forte and John Solomon, couldn't resist what may be his only shot at re-creating the look and feel of an Eighties Cold War action film. (Later, Reagan's presidential portrait will cameo.) It's not a terrible idea – surely there's just as much nostalgia for Red Dawn and Red Heat as for MacGyver – it's just not terribly well executed here. The film goes by in a wash of uninspired action and unmemorable comedy; the daffy, mock ingenuity of the original sketch is long gone, and MacGruber's ineffectualness has degraded into flat-out incompetence, with far fewer comedic rewards.