Macgruber – The Sketch That Pretends It’s a Film


MacGruber, the movie, is a spinoff of a Saturday Night Live sketch, which was a parody of MacGyver, an 80s TV action-adventure series.

This all sounds rather complicated and leads one to assume that the idea behind this film is so unique that it’s worth all the faffing around for. In reality, the plot is straight off an early series of 24 and so many bumbling heroes have graced our screens (who could ever forget Inspector Clusoe’s “minkey”?) that if Universal had given it a different title, all those expensive rights issues could have been avoided. Or perhaps the belief is that attaching the original SNL actor is an invaluable marketing tool, but as no one outside of the US has even heard of the show, this might not be such a humdinger of an idea.

MacGruber’s reputation as a special ops agent is legendary, as is his penchant for polishing off the enemy by tearing out their throats in preference to the impersonal use of a gun. He has been in self-imposed exile for ten years and during this time has become something of a pacifist, but when a nuclear warhead is stolen by MacGruber’s sworn enemy, Von Cunth (that’s as clever as the humor in this film gets), our hero is called back to action.

As soon as MacGruber makes his first appearance, we are left in no doubt that he is a bungling idiot but in the context of the story this just does not make sense. We are told that this incompetent earned the rank of Navy Seal and Green Beret, and when we witness Von Cunth warning his team not to underestimate MacGruber we expect to soon see our hero fool people, or be clever by accident, or get some crazy lucky breaks, or see something, anything, that would make the hype seem possible and thus lead the way to comedy. Not only does this not happen, but none of the other characters question MacGruber’s credibility and, instead of creating their own world, they make themselves cartoonish and as unbelievable as him. In fact, the entire film comes over as a thirty second sketch, stretched into ninety minutes and is superficial at its most deadly.

There is a major inconsistency in the story when MacGregor’s trademark of refusing to use a gun is conveniently forgotten and when he’s done blasting he simply throws the gun away and no attempt at an explanation is made. By insulting the audience’s intelligence the writers show the limits of their own or that they are too lazy to get everything to fit. Anomalies like this can take the audience out of the story but as we never really get into it the damage is pretty limited.

The best sketches are driven by one dimensional characters and one single idea, and it is this pureness that makes them work. Unfortunately, a full length comedy requires a lot more, including a few laughs. There is just one funny one-liner in the entire film, uttered by Cunth, which is quite derogatory to the Chinese. While the Chinese are not known for their sensitivity, they did boycott Sharon Stone’s films when she insulted them and as no one knows for certain exactly how nuked-up our Asian friends really are, insulting the Iranians would have been a much wiser move because, as we all know, they are already out to get us.

Rated: R

Release date: 21st May, 2010

Written by and starring: Will Forte