dir Jorma Taccone
prd John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels
scr Will Forte, John Solomon, Jorma Taccone
with Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph, Rhys Coiro, Andy Mackenzie, Jasper Cole, Timothy V Murphy, Kevin Skousen, Chris Jericho
release US 21.May.10, UK 18.Jun.10
10/US Rogue 1h39
Ponytail vs mullet: Kilmer and Forte

wiig phillippe rudolph
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MacGruber Will Forte transfers his Saturday Night Live character to the big screen but forgets to bring along what made those sketches so hilarious. Instead of any actual comedy, this film merely resorts to easy gross-out mayhem.

MacGruber (Forte) has been presumed dead for 10 years after the villainous Dieter (Kilmer) blew up his wedding, including his bride (Rudolph). But now Dieter has a Russian nuke aimed at Washington, and only MacGruber can stop him. Recruited by a colonel (Booth), MacGruber bumbles through the operation, rescued frequently by his former colleague and current love interest Vicki (Wiig) and bright-spark sidekick Piper (Philippe). But time is running out for an '80s-style hero struggling to adapt to the 21st century.

If only the filmmakers had developed that premise. The only '80s references are the soft-rock song score and MacGruber's mullet. Sure, the filmmakers deploy action movie cliches with deadpan glee, but they forget to add either punchlines or payoffs, letting the actors hang out to dry waiting for laughter that will only come at late-night screenings at which most of the audience is too drunk to realise that there's nothing clever here and too stupid to know that they should be offended by the sexism and homophobia.

The cast members all play it exactly right; Forte is the film's clown, going for broke in every scene. He's only watchable because Philippe and Wiig manage to keep straight faces through it all. Sometimes, their actions and reactions are funny in ways that Forte's broad, hyperbolic vulgarity isn't. Meanwhile, the director keeps things bold and muscly, indulging in rather a lot of grisly violence along with the over-the-top sex gags.

There's promise in the script's absurd tone and willingness to wallow in its blatant crudeness, but the writers never add any invention or wit. The funniest moments are throwaway bits, while the plot continually abandons even its own wobbly logic for cheap, weak jokes. For example, MacGruber's refusal to use a gun while relying on MacGyver-style improvisation is simply thrown away when the scriptwriters can't figure out where to go with it. And yet, that could have offered some genuine humour, if they'd only bothered.

cert 15 themes, very strong language, violence, sex 22.May.10

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall