May 21, 2009
On the Big Board
||As a MacGyver fan I really wanted this to be successful, but I only laughed once or twice. Val Kilmer managed to be about the best element in the movie.
||An absolutely gutless attempt at action comedy satire. I miss Hot Shots.
Hasn't Lorne Michaels learned that for every Wayne's World, there is a Ladies' Man, Stuart Saves the World, It's Pat, Coneheads, Night at the Roxbury, Superstar and even Wayne's World 2? Apparently, that is an elusive lesson for the Saturday Night Live mastermind, as we are now being treated (or subjected) to the big screen version of the character MacGruber.
With The Ladies Man as the last SNL skit-inspired film released in 2000, we all should have expected the decade-long respite to end eventually. Surprisingly to fans of the superior performers on the show, Michaels tapped Will Forte to bring the bumbling parody to a 60-foot screen near you.
On the surface, MacGruber seems to be an odd choice to the movie to debunk such an unimpressive pedigree. But when you look at the few SNL players to find box office success in the last two decades, their bankability is solidified by characters/products that were conceived for a feature length film and not a four to six minute sketch. Some prime examples are Mike Myers’ Austin Powers, Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf, Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley, Chris Farley’s Tommy Callahan, Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison and even Rob Schneider’s Deuce Bigelow.
Michaels’ only producing credit amongst these examples is Tommy Boy (unless you want to count the fact that Myers modeled Dr. Evil after Lorne). Having a brilliant mind and awareness of this business, he undoubtedly saw this trend and tried to duplicate it on two occasions: one successful (Tina Fey in Baby Mama) and one not so much (Andy Samberg in Hot Rod).
This brings us back to the titular Inspector Clouseau of covert spies, MacGruber. For non-fans or infrequent viewers of SNL, MacGruber is the only recurring character that MAY at least have some appeal, thanks to the intentional and unavoidable déjà vu of his inspiration, MacGyver.
Joining Will Forte is castmate Kristen Wiig as his long-suffering sidekick Vicki St. Elmo, Ryan Phillippe as the straight man/legitimate military operative Lt. Dixon Piper and Val Kilmer as the nuclear war happy villain Dieter Von Cunth. The writers clearly named Phillippe’s and Kilmer’s characters as such for the sole purpose of not-so-subtle,
"superliminal" crude humor.
That brings up probably the biggest change for an SNL film that MacGruber has undergone – it is rated R for the following MPAA stated reasons: strong crude and sexual content, violence, language and some nudity. The rating seems to support the recent claim in Entertainment Weekly by first-time director Jorma Taccone that they were aiming to just make a violent, action movie with MacGruber implanted in it.
While it makes sense that Forte and Wiig are on board because they couldn’t really recast them, but it is baffling why Kilmer and Phillippe signed up for this. Kilmer may have simply been looking for a fun, slapstick film reminiscent of his superior Real Genius and Top Secret! from the '80s and Phillippe probably just wanted a breather from the more serious roles he’s seen lately from Crash to Flags of our Fathers to Breach to Stop-Loss.
Whether or not the film delivers the laughs and audiences is the biggest unknown with the film. The trailers haven’t exactly induced belly laughs but a December screening of the film yielded a glowing and embarrassingly over-the-top positive review. Since it was the only one of its kind, it was either a true gem to the reviewer or the work of a David Manning-esque plant. Coincidentally (or maybe not), the Milli Vanilli of film critics, "Manning" was a Sony marketing creation that extolled the virtues of Animal starring Rob Schneider, another SNL alumnus.
Regardless, Lorne Michaels and Universal Pictures will find out if their counter-programming gamble opposite the Shrek behemoth (which incidentally stars two of Michaels former employees) paid off on the morning of Monday, May 24th, when its opening receipts are tallied. (Daron Aldridge/BOP)