A one-joke “Saturday Night Live” skit based on a television series that ended in 1992 has been turned into a no-joke movie that ended 99 painful minutes after it began. It is of interest only to people who think that 80’s references like mullet haircuts, Blaupunkt removable automobile cassette players, soft rock, and many many many potty jokes are always hilarious.
“MacGyver” was a television series about a secret agent who could take a gum wrapper and a bottle of nail polish remover and make it into some very clever device to defeat any threat from any enemy, no matter how high-tech. The series emphasized problem-solving and science over weapons. And now the little boys who grew up watching MacGyver think it is hilarious to trash him by making him into an arrogant idiot.
The SNL skits invariably and tediously show MacGruber (co-writer Will Forte) trying to defuse some bomb with household items only to fail and have it blow everyone up. The movie draws not just from the skits but from a range of 80’s action film conventions. MacGruber is a one-time action hero who has retired to a life of spiritual contemplation after his bride (Maya Rudolph) was murdered at their wedding. He gets a visit from Colonel James Faith (a steely Powers Boothe) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe), asking him to return to service to go after a bad guy played by a beefy and ponytailed Val Kilmer whose character name happens to sound like an extremely crude term for the female anatomy.
MacGruber swings like a pendulum between grandiose self-aggrandizement and humiliating self-abasement. Both are excruciating. He rounds up a team of very big men (played by WWE stars) but accidentally blows them to smithereens so has to work with Piper and his late wife’s best friend Vicky St. Elmo (Get it? Another 80’s reference!), played by the divine Kristen Wiig, who is the movie’s only bright spot. Even the blue eyeshadow and feathered blonde hair can’t hide her brilliance and beauty.
Those for whom the 80’s were not epochal will be bored when they are not being grossed out. Or both at the same time. On the other hand, those who find the idea of a man sticking a stalk of celery in his butt and walking around with his pants off so hilarious that they want to see it twice will be delighted.
Parents should know that this film has extremely graphic violence and extremely graphic sexual references and situations including male and female nudity. Characters drink and there are several product placement references to Molson beer. There is sexist and homophobic humor and very strong and crude language.
Family discussion: What other films can you recognize as influences?
If you like this, try: other “Saturday Night Live” movies like “The Blues Brothers” and “Wayne’s World”