Review in a Hurry: Saturday Night Live's micro skit about the world's worst bomb specialist arrives on the big screen. But you'll have to wait until the final reel for the real explosive gags.
The Bigger Picture: Whether or not Will Forte's man-of-action MacGruber was ever gonna work as a full-length feature, one has to credit the not-ready-for-prime-time player for even attempting it.
As a quick 90-second tease, the mullet-sporting hero was never really much of a character to begin with, but merely a one-note joke about '80s TV icon MacGyver. He was overconfident to the extreme and failed spectacularly. And Forte, with his crazily elastic face could convey just the right amount of manic energy...for 90 seconds.
Charmingly goofy and out-of-date, MacGruber always stood out on SNL. Here, the plot has him assembling a team that consists of a solider (Ryan Phillippe) and a solider-turned-singer (Kirsten Wiig) to defeat the diabolical Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) who plans to blow up Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the film becomes as much of a scattershot joke on the Reagan era as it is on MacGruber himself.
The result is a Scary Movie approach to comedy: Toss out 10 gags a minute and hope that one sticks. And while some of the gags work, most aren't laugh-out-loud funny. More chuckle inducing, like watching MacGruber drive around in his sporty red Miata–complete with a pull out Blaupunkt stereo—with Mr. Mister cranked up to 11. For the most part though, the '80s feel wears thin fast.
In an effort to keep things extreme, director Jorma Taccone (Land of the Lost) makes use of his R rating with many poop jokes and lots of other icky "props." Case in point, a celery stick gets used in a completely nonnutritional way. And the liberal use of F-bombs makes clear that the SNL writers (Forte, John Solomon and Taccone) had themselves a ball being unhinged.
As the final act nears, Kilmer gets more screen time, and he's hilarious as a villain who is just as overconfident as MacGruber but not as stupid. Plus, watch for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cutaway of Kilmer sporting full-on Real Genius attire.
OK, that is laugh-out-loud funny.
The 180—a Second Opinion: While it's not much more than a mediocre send-up of many mediocre '80s movies, the casting is strong. Maya Rudolph plays MacGruber's long-dead bride and she's a hoot. Fans of Wiig and Rudolph should be pleased. Phillippe plays the straight man well. And as noted, Kilmer is the man.