The story line is something or other about a nuclear missile stolen by thuggish bad guys from a military transport in Siberia. The mastermind? The evil Dr. Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), who has nefarious plans to, bwahahaha, blow up the world! Of course, in a parody film as crass as this one, the story doesn’t matter. It’s about the sight gags and the one-liners, and MacGruber doesn’t disappoint.
Will Forte is MacGruber, a retired special forces operative who previously served as an Army Ranger, Navy SEAL, Army Green Beret and received 16 purple hearts, three Congressional Medals of Honor and more. Problem is, he’s a complete idiot and everything he gets involved with goes sideways and often results in innocent bystanders dying. A newspaper headline flashes by at the beginning of the film, “MacGruber stops terrorist cell, 200 civilians casualties,” and that’s pretty much the sensibility of the entire film.
If you’ve seen any action films in the last 20 years, you’ll recognize cliché plot devices and dialog that keep the film moving along, even as some of the scenes are rather, um, indelicate. Still, I laughed quite a bit during the film and cringed once or twice, too.
After a failed attempt at assembling a crack squad, MacGruber’s ends up with former lover Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and young officer Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe). Dialog throughout the film sounds exactly as you would expect, as if written by a team of gag writers from a late night TV show. In one scene, Lt. Piper commiserates with MacGruber, saying he appreciated the chance to work with him on a case.
Piper: “I appreciate working with you for the last few days, I’ve learned a lot.”
MacGruber: “You have?” Piper: “All about what not to do.” Their military liaison is Colonel James Faith (Powers Boothe), who keeps kicking MacGruber off the case. At times, Boothe has a hard time keeping a straight face, and we can only wonder what was going on behind the scenes.
Lest you think this is all family fare and a fun, silly comedy, I will warn you that there’s a reason this film has an “R” rating. There are more profanities than an Eddie Murphy standup routine, and the sexual references and, um, celery scenes are definitely not for the younger crowd. If there’s such a thing as a “beer movie” (as in “drink a few before you go to the theater”), this is it.
A film like MacGruber is what I consider a guilty pleasure. It’s not great cinema; it’s not even something you’re going to watch more than once. It has enough crude scenes that you’d be embarrassed to have your parents see it inadvertently, but as I said at the beginning, it was pretty darn funny and sarcastic. If that’s your thing, go for it!